Thoughts on Ferguson
The events in Ferguson precipitated by a white policeman shooting a black teenager deserve serious discussion. Unfortunately, dynamics of our politically driven media are such that rational discussion is almost impossible. We are all expected to take sides on every issue according to partisan demand, and that just fuels the fire.
If we must take sides, let us ignore falling into the trap of ideological quagmires and boldly take the side of truth.
The truth is, I never knew Michael Brown while he was alive. I don't know Officer Darren Wilson. I did not witness the killing. My knowledge of what happened is as limited as it is with most people who heard it on the news.
With that admission, I think it is wrong to lump all members of the police force as bad, just as it is wrong to label them all as good (I have personally seen examples of both). It is difficult to make split-second, life and death decisions while enforcing the law, and terrible mistakes happen. Nevertheless, police brutality, which we have seen too much of over the last few years, is a crime worth prosecuting. I believe there are vestiges of racism in America, and that we should all adopt a patriotic mandate for equality to rid ourselves of them. No more playing games with dog whistle politics and other hidden forms of prejudice. It is time for all of us to grow up. If human life has any intrinsic value, and human dignity is something to be respected, then it must apply to all people, regardless of color, or it applies to none.
While many things might have happened that did not during the 90 second confrontation between Michael Brown and Officer Wilson, I think that Michael's fate was determined by his reaching into the police cruiser to grab the officer's gun and the gun discharged. From that moment on, clear-headed thinking was impossible for either of them, and dangerous mistakes were inevitable.
Now, these are just my personal opinions. I throw them out as part of the ongoing discussion. But there is more.
Police officers are not just government employees. They are representatives of the law and protectors of our rights. They are supposed to be our champions.
If the trend that we are witnessing tells us they are not, instead of jumping to conclusions, we must ask ourselves why. Is it because crime in certain areas is increasing? Are certain neighborhoods more dangerous than others? Are there too many guns on the street? Have too many police officers been hurt or killed in the line of duty? Have media portrayals of minorities and the poor created a general paranoia that leads to distrust and violence?
If so, then the solutions are more complex than just saying that the police are over-reacting - which they probably are, but possibly with cause.
The truth is, those in authority are now trying to find a way to get beyond confrontational protests and acts of vandalism. They will say and do anything to get things back to the way they were. But we all know that the way things were is not good enough. Superficial remedies solve nothing, and the status quo we were used to is seriously flawed.
Attitudes have to change, and that means people have to grow up and face the challenges of their own inner prejudices, which too often become institutionalized. The reasons for crime have to be eliminated. Moral values must take the lead in cultural discussions and priorities. If we choose to remain a nation that existentially equates freedom with gun ownership, we must also be a nation where our attitude toward firearms matures to a more pronounced moral responsibility. No more living in gun-related fantasies that are both ignorantly dangerous and provocative. We must always beware of what we are teaching others by our behavior, especially the young who may then commit audacious crimes. The purpose of freedom is to grow in virtue, not make fools of ourselves by playing partisan games while holding human progress back.
We must work together to make the changes that the times are calling for.
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