The Shoemaker and the Fish Peddler
By DANNY MINTON
Nicola Sacco was an Italian immigrant shoemaker and night watchman. Bartolomeo Vanzetti was an Italian immigrant fishmonger. The two found themselves tied to the anarchist, Luigi Galleani. You’ve probably never heard of these men since they lived in the U.S. almost a century ago.
In the 1920s, they were on trial for the murder of a paymaster and night watchman in Braintree, Massachusetts. From their arrest, it became apparent that the two men would be found guilty. The entire trial faced prejudice from crucial figures. Evidence was tampered with, and vital facts intentionally withheld from their attorney. The prosecution twisted things to sound guilty, and their defense attorney was inept, not asking critical questions.
In 1926 protests went across cities across the country, demanding a retrial. The judge denied a new trial. The state Supreme Court backed him up as well as the governor. More protests, threats, and petitions surfaced, but to no avail. Someone else admitted to the murders. Still, a retrial remained denied. At midnight, August 23, 1927, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed. They proclaimed their innocence to the end. In Vanzetti’s final statement proclaiming his innocence, he added, “I wish to forgive some people for what they are doing to me.”
Following the executions, there would be bombings in cities here and abroad. The judge would live the rest of his life with bodyguards. The case would be discussed for decades to come. From the beginning, they had lost, not because of murder, but mainly due to their being Italian. Their beliefs were extreme, but the overshadowing issue was their nationality. The two traits together formed a tainted view of who the two were as human beings. Prejudice had cost them their lives.
I often write about how we look at people. Why? Because how we view each other is a crucial factor in our ability to reach out to others with the love of Christ. Allowing our prejudices to cloud our minds becomes a stumbling block to genuinely reaching someone with the message and hope that Christ offers.
Did you know that if you saw Jesus or his apostles walking down the street, your first impression might likely be negative? The average man during His time is said to be under 5’6” tall, with short hair, a beard, and olive skin. Today, He would probably face closer scrutiny as he went through the airport or walked into a Did you know that if you saw Jesus or his apostles walking down the street, your first impression might likely be negative? The average man during His time is said to be under 5’6” tall, with short hair, a beard, and olive skin. Today, He would probably face closer scrutiny as he went through the airport or walked into a government building. People tend to first judge on the prominent features, outward appearance, skin color, or nationality. Black, White, Asian, Italian, Hispanic, short, tall, male, female, fat, skinny, language or distinct features are processed consciously and subconsciously each time we meet someone. However, none of these describe who they are as human beings. To judge someone on any of these qualities skews the vision of who they are as people.
God looks at the heart. Jesus looked at people with compassion. Their love for men, women, and children had no outer boundaries.
Until we begin to look at people like God does, with the compassion of Jesus, we’ll continue to be involved in conflict. As long as we base our first impression on the outward, we’ll never develop the relationships that God wants men and women to possess. To hate or despise people because of what we see outwardly goes against everything that Jesus has tried to teach us about how God views us all.
Learn to know the heart of people you meet. Shouldn’t we make an effort to listen to them! Look into their eyes beyond their facial features, nationality, and skin color. Teach yourself to look for what God views in people.
In 1927 two men were executed, likely innocent of murder, due to the prejudice of so many people. I wonder at times, “Do we twist our view of people based on what we see rather than the heart?” “Do we categorize people on whether they agree with us or not?” Are we any better than a tainted judge, lawyer, or jury when we pass judgment on first impressions? These are questions that each of us can only answer for ourselves. It takes some deep soul searching.
However, maybe the main question we should ask ourselves is, “Do we see people with the same heart as Jesus sees us?”
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ