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Nov 26

Ferguson, where are we?

I have tried and failed over the past week to put together my thoughts on what has unfolded in Ferguson. Originally, I thought I would write about the first amendment and how it has been used as a shield to create the terrorist organization we know as the KKK. I’d write about how in the year 2014 we are staring at KKK members giving commentary on network TV. I would wrap it up with the news of the Missouri KKK threatening the safety of protesters in Ferguson. But I couldn’t bring myself to get very far with it. I ended up angry and bitter that in 2014 the KKK was actually relevant in a discussion. The anger and bitterness caused my words to fail. Instead of being able to write a clear, albeit rambling piece, it came out angry and spiteful. It was the antithesis of what I wanted.

So I moved on. I changed course, thinking  I might pen something broad stroke in nature about the racial tensions that seem to underscore the very problem in Ferguson. Because if you get down to it, it is a topic that still impacts our nation some 40 years after the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. I thought “Here we are several generations removed from that awful time, and we still struggle to see past the color of someone’s skin to the content of the character.” But again. My words failed me. They failed me, because I can’t believe that we have so far yet to go in this country before we get to a point where race isn’t an issue. I was overwhelmed by the idea of tackling it.

And then, last night, I watched the press conference and ensuing coverage on CNN. I watched events unfold on twitter, and Ustream. I sat there watching this happen, and my heart broke. I have a hard time believing that we as Americans can look at what has happened with Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and the countless cases that haven’t had the same media coverage and say: This, is the country we want it to be. At least, I hope that we can’t sit back and say that.

I wasn’t on the Grand Jury. I wasn’t part of the process. I wont pretend to have combed through the information that was released by the prosecutor after the press conference. I wont pretend to be an expert. With that out in the open, I don’t believe that the killing was justified in this case.

My reasoning is simple, and flawed. I can accept this. I can’t see lethal force being justifiable in the death of an unarmed man under these circumstances. It gnaws at my brain to try and rationalize it. With the training received by a law enforcement officer, I do not see lethal force as the justifiable option in this instance. He wasn’t choking him. He wasn’t grappling with him when the lethal shot was fired. There was no imminent danger when he pulled the trigger the sixth, and final time. Judging by the photos released of Officer Wilson, I just don’t see it.

I also don’t see any way to rationally condone the violent outburst during the protests, that turned into rioting. A Law Enforcement officer shot an unarmed man six times, killing him. When he wasn’t indicted, some used it as an excuse to riot, loot, pillage, and destroy. It again gnaws at my brain to think that people thought the acceptable reaction to the grand jury decision was to burn down a Little Caesar’s pizza, smash windows, and loot businesses.

As I watched it all, one thing was very clear. America has become a place where violence is the answer. Look at the cause and effect. Look at how the altercation between Brown and Wilson went down. Look at how some of the protesters behaved. Look at the riots in LA (Rodney King). Look at the violence in New Orleans after Katrina. Look at Trayvon Martin.

Violence is how we settle things. It is our coping mechanism. Hell, Violence is even how we celebrate. Look at the riots after a major sporting event. A team wins its championship, and there is a riot. Violence, Arson, mayhem. It is our comforter. It’s a warm blanket that we wrap ourselves in. Angry or jubilant, we wrap ourselves in violence, and settle in for the night.

Our violence has led us to this point. Welcome to the aftermath. The Grand Jury didn’t feel that they had the evidence to issue an indictment. And we saw the very worst of humanity play out on our screens in the aftermath. Not everyone protesting was an example of the awfulness. Remember that. Many of those people who were protesting did not burn cars, destroy buildings, or burn things. They were protesting. Not rioting.

And not every law enforcement officer in attendance was awful either.

The violence in the wake of the decision will not bring Mike Brown back from the dead. Destroying a person’s livelihood will not teach the police a lesson. It’s self harm. Nothing more. I wrote about it before. We would take our own rights away instead of extending rights to those we don’t agree with. We will riot, loot, and destroy each other in the wake of a tragedy. We have an ugly habit of doing this.

This behavior has to stop.

We need to stop harming ourselves and each other. We need to look for new ways to handle the enforcement of our laws. Clearly there is a flaw in the system. We need to find ways to ensure that the number of people who die at the hands of our law enforcement falls. We shouldn’t see unarmed young men gunned down by a police officer.

We shouldn’t see our protests become violent, and devastating.  We shouldn’t watch as those standing together to protest what they believe is an injustice used as a cover for violence and destructive rage.

We need to see this as a turning point. A rallying cry.We, as people need to be the voice of change. If we can’t work to change our society, what are we leaving as our legacy? Will we leave the legacy of a racist society? Will our legacy be that fear and mistrust of those whose job it is to protect us is the norm? Will it be that a protest is a chance to destroy, loot, and ravage?

Or, will we leave a legacy of change? Will we leave the lasting impression that in the face of a tragedy, we banded together, and worked to ensure that this will not happen again?

Please, don’t mistake my words. I’m not saying that a protest is the same as a riot. Protest, is important. Protests, in solidarity with our fellow man can be a radical catalyst for change in this country. We have seen it as a means to change. We have seen the power that it can have when many unite as one and protest injustices. Rioting, is not protest. It’s destructive. It warps and distorts the message. In much the same way that a heinous and violent act by a law enforcement officer can lead us to this point, and distract from the job that they do.

I wanted to close with a quote. As I wrote this, I had thought of several quotes that I thought could be poignant. But I scrapped several of them, because they left me feeling less than satisfied with their tone. And then it hit me. There is only quote that fits on a site named after an Everclear Song. I leave you with the words of Art Alexakis.

“Oh, I want to believe in this world
I want to believe in this life
I want to believe in a world that does not seem real
When I read the New York Times”