Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Burning Down The House

I watched the riot in Ferguson, Missouri Monday night. Channel flipping between CNN, FOX and MSNBC to get the middle, right and left sides of the story. Before the riot, I watched and listened to the County Prosecutor’s announcement. I was not surprised with the grand jury’s decision. The law in Missouri is very clear as it is in most states. Right or wrong, law enforcement officers are given a lot of leeway in using deadly force. A good thing to remember, by the way, if you’re ever tempted to challenge or threaten a police officer.

As I watched cars burn and store windows being broken and looters hauling off armfuls of snacks, beer and liquor from the store where Michael Brown’s last day took a very wrong turn; I thought about a line from an old movie where a young Marlon Brando is asked “What are you rebelling against?” and his character coolly replies, “Whada ya got?”

I get the feeling that the protestors/rioters in places like Ferguson have that same attitude most of the time. What are you protesting? Whatever “you got”. And right now “they got” Michael Brown. But this is not about Michael Brown. The shooting of Michael Brown was legal. Some may even consider it justified. If I am in Officer Darren Wilson’s shoes that day, it was a necessity.

But there are a lot of folks who don’t see it that way. They see Michael Brown and, most of all, themselves as victims. Victims of racism and injustice. They get the short end of the stick when it comes to educational and employment opportunities. They are arrested and incarcerated and, yes sometimes, shot and killed disproportionately. How much of it is their own fault can be debated. That it is so, cannot. And when it comes to how they are treated by some members of law enforcement and how they “think” they are treated by most members of law enforcement; they once again get the short end of the stick; sometimes up against the side of their heads. Is this treatment fair? No. Does it makes sense? Sometimes. Have they earned it? Yes, in some ways. Are they really victims? Yes, in some ways.

How do we fix it? Indicting Darren Wilson does not fix it. Even if he had been tried and found guilty and given a death sentence it would not have fixed the problem. In this nation, we have a very complex set of social, political and economic challenges which have existed for a long, long time. They are not new, but they are becoming more unmanageable. The “victims” have found their voice and their numbers are growing. We did not get into this mess overnight and we’ll not be getting out of it overnight. We are at the point where we cannot legislate our way out and we’ve proven that we cannot “welfare” our way out. Hearts and minds must change. That takes time and a lot of help from above.

Watch out, you might get what you're after
Cool baby, strange but not a stranger
I'm an ordinary guy
Burning down the house
-lyrics from the Talking Heads song “Burning Down The House”

No comments: