Our Kvetching Society
The work “kvetch” is a Yiddish term that means to complain persistently and whiningly. Leonard Ross, the child prodigy who won the $64,000 Challenge game show at the age of 11, is quoted as saying that a nagging complainer is one who goes on a “rambling kvetch against the system.”
I was thinking about the expression last weekend when thousands of people in the United States joined nationwide rallies to demand federal action in support of civil rights, one week after a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman in the shooting death of the unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin. I have already blogged about the fairness of the Zimmerman verdict and issues related to allowing him to carry a gun as a neighborhood watch person.
The National Action Network, led by American civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton, organized last Saturday's vigils in honor of Trayvon Martin, outside government buildings in more than 100 cities around the country. The not guilty verdict in the Zimmerman trial angered many Americans who believe Martin's killing was racially motivated. Race was not discussed in court during the trial.
Saturday's main rally was in New York City, where hundreds of people gathered to see Martin's mother Sybrina Fulton, Sharpton and pop superstar couple Beyonce and Jay-Z. Addressing the crowd, Fulton said "today it was my son, tomorrow it might be yours." She also vowed to fight for change in the country to ensure that her son's death is not in vain, saying "I am going to work for your children as well."
Sharpton is pressing the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a civil right prosecution of Zimmerman on suspicion of targeting Martin because of the teenager's race. Some legal experts say it would be difficult for federal prosecutors to prove the allegation.
Our hearts and sympathies go out to Travyon Martin’s family. No parent should have to endure what they have the past year-and-a-half and in the aftermath of the jury verdict. However, I have to ask whether the verdict has manifested itself in a national exercise on kvetching. In other words, do we protest a decision because it didn’t go our way or because there is a genuine issue of fairness in a jury’s deliberation process and its decision that needs to be aired out to cleanse our national psyche? Have we become a nation of kvetchers? We don’t get our way so we demonstrate to bring pressure on those (i.e., the system) that legitimately decided a legal case against us.
To answer these questions in the Zimmerman case we need to examine the motive for the protests. To the extent they are based on wanting to protest the incompetent prosecution of the case and prevent neighborhood watch people from carrying guns, then count me as one of the kvetchers. However, to the extent they are motivated by a petulant feeling, I believe they reflect classic kvetching.
There is no doubt that the reaction to the Zimmerman verdict is understandable because a young black man is dead. He was needlessly killed. Zimmerman never should have been allowed to carry a gun---period.
However, we have to balance that feeling with the fact that the jury rendered what it perceived to be a fair verdict. Most experts agreed with the verdict. If we are looking for someone or something to blame, let’s examine the incompetent behavior of Florida State Attorney Angela Corey who over-charged with the second degree murder count. Manslaughter with a gun in Florida carries a maximum of 30 years in prison. That was the appropriate charge and, I believe, if Corey and the prosecutors focused on that charge, Zimmerman would have been found guilty.
So why are there no protests about the inept prosecuting attorneys in the Zimmerman case? Why isn’t anyone asking for the removal of Corey who, after the verdict, said Zimmerman was a “murderer?” Where are the Sharptons and Jacksons in this situation? Why aren’t they protesting the real cause of the not guilty verdict? Why aren’t they exercising their God-given right to kvetch about the way the prosecution handled the case?
Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on July 22, 2013