There is at least one facet in our political process of conducting elections that entitles us, as U.S. citizens, to feel a certain amount of pride in the execution thereof. Yet, it must appear somewhat bewildering to much of the world.
Every four years, we can effect an orderly and peaceful change of government, which is special indeed.
Notwithstanding the constant, vitriolic and often ad hominem attacks on one another by the candidates, as well as their followers — assaults alleging malfeasance, corruption, callous insensitivity and all manner of evil — they are yesterday's news on the Wednesday after the election.
Unlike that which is the rule in much of the family of nations, there are no riots, jailing of opponents, executions or exiles. Political enmity in the U.S. is neither fatal nor cause for incarceration.
This condition is more than likely due in large measure to our system of checks and balances and to that truism voiced by former House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, "All politics is local."
Why then, if we can bury the hatchet so quickly and bloodlessly in the realm of politics, is it so difficult to reach accord in the arena of race relations?
In the recent Sanford, Fla., trial, George Zimmerman, a 29-year-old Hispanic male, was accused of the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black youth.
If I may digress a bit, perhaps we have reached a point where a measure of sanity has manifested itself — the fears that the past would repeat itself if Zimmerman was not convicted as charged did not come to pass.
Despite media warnings and apparent undercurrents of racial animus that seemed to suggest a chance that hoodlums engaging in entrepreneurial looting and out-of-control youths would ignite the powder keg, massive unrest was prevented by cooler heads.
There were demonstrations; however, most were peaceable and orderly. That the only inner city to cause destruction and property damage was Oakland, Calif., is hopefully a harbinger of responsibly organized and safely orchestrated protests, a giant step forward.
Unfortunately, the racial overtones originated for the most part in the media, from outside organizations and interest groups and from the recognized race hustlers such as the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Instead of treating the shooting as a tragic, senseless incident that should have been avoided, it became a white-and-black issue with virtually no evidence to support that notion.
I won't comment on the decision to try the case as second-degree murder or offer an opinion as to the evidence. Like everyone else, I was not a witness, nor was I privy to the circumstances or present at the trial. Those decisions were made by judicial and law enforcement authorities and are not open, in my opinion, to second-guessing.
In this trial, the prosecution as well as the defense made it clear that it was not to be tried as a case of racial profiling but by the evidence presented.
Admittedly, the evidence was rather sparse as there were no witnesses; accordingly, no one but George Zimmerman knows exactly what happened.
The defense and the prosecution presented their sides. The jury deliberated for 15 hours, returning not-guilty decisions on both second- degree murder and manslaughter charges. Not everyone agrees with every jury decision, but in virtually every court case, the ruling is accepted.
You can't live as long as I have lived and experienced many different cultures and peoples without understanding the difficulty in achieving calm in incidents involving race.
However, those venues that should have a vested interest in promoting harmony are too often the problem rather than the solution.
One would expect the clergy to play a positive role in soothing passions; however, the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta stated that Martin is dead because "black boys and men ... are not seen as persons but problems," and the Rev. Valerie Houston of Sanford, Fla., deplored "the racism and the injustice that pollute the air in America." Sharpton called the verdict "an atrocity."
The president did not help matters when he interjected, "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon," and the media continued to promote bias by continually publishing the picture showing Martin as a 12-year-old.
The NAACP and the ACLU are demanding the Justice Department indict Zimmerman on federal civil rights charges.
Finally, there will always be ignorance, racists, bigots and rabble-rousers among us. But most of us are fair-minded and objective citizens and are willing to go more than half-way in the arenas of race, color and creed.
But it is difficult to excuse the actions of those who heed the activists instead and refuse to accept that there is more than one side to a disagreement.
J. Karl Miller is a retired colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps.