Wednesday, November 26, 2014

After The Fire

There is something inherently wrong in Ferguson, Missouri.  The undercurrent of racial tension, hatred, and discrimination that festers for all to see is no longer a nasty little secret…..just look at how Monday night’s ruling and its aftermath played out.  In a town where 67% of the residents are black and 90% of the police force is white, blacks have been significantly over-represented by traffic stops, stop-and-frisks, and arrests for years.  For weeks all of Ferguson as well as most of the nation waited cautiously for the grand jury to issue its ruling.  Like coastal residents in the Carolinas preparing for a slow moving hurricane making its way up the Atlantic seaboard, Ferguson officials had time to prepare, and Ferguson officials had a choice to make Monday when the ruling was issued – who to protect, how to protect them, and where to deploy police. 

No loss of property compares to a human life.  No loss of business compares to the loss of a family’s son.  But whose property Ferguson officials protected says a lot about whose life is truly valued in that town – on Monday night, militarized police brutalized protestors but did not protect a vulnerable business community.  And Ferguson officials made the same decision they have made for years: protect white residents and ignore black residents while trampling on their First Amendment rights.

This is the world that Michael Brown lived in and the same one Officer Darren Wilson worked in.  A world where long-simmering racial tension is the norm and an unarmed 18 year old teenager can get gunned down by the police the same way Cary Ball, Jr was gunned down by cops a year earlier.   
There’s an evil in Ferguson that’s worse than something out of a Stephen King novel.

         Much has already been written about Michael Brown’s death and the grand jury’s failure to return an indictment against Darren Wilson.  But some other things to consider:

  • People who say “don’t commit a crime and you won’t get shot” don’t understand what it’s like to be repeatedly harassed because of the color of your skin. They just don’t have a fucking clue.
  • This movement by some to sit during recitals of the Pledge of Allegiance (because we’re not “one country….. indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”) has been done before.  If you want to make a something happen be the change you want to make….nothing great was ever accomplished by sitting on your ass.  Get involved.  Vote out incumbents.  Make a difference.
  • It’s not often that I agree with Supreme Court Justice Scalia, but in 1992 he clearly explained the role of a grand jury:   It is the grand jury’s function not ‘to enquire … upon what foundation [the charge may be]            denied,’ or otherwise to try the suspect’s defenses, but only to examine ‘upon what foundation [the charge] is made’ by the prosecutor.” In contrast, Officer Wilson was allowed to testify before the grand jury, presenting them with every piece of exculpatory evidence available. In his press conference, prosecutor Robert McCulloch said that the grand jury did not indict because eyewitness testimony that established Wilson acted in self-defense was contradicted by other exculpatory evidence. What McCulloch didn’t say is that he was under no obligation to present such evidence to the grand jury. The only reason someone would present that kind of evidence is to reduce the chances that the grand jury would indict Darren Wilson.
  • I have a world of respect and admiration for police officers.  My grandfather was a cop, we grew up around cops, and my son is six months on the job and heading to the police academy in a few weeks.  But we need to train our police officers that the first response in any situation is not to pull their gun and open fire.

 And finally – it’s Thanksgiving again. That time of the year when people who can afford it, gorge themselves and then race to the mall where they can push, shove, and trample their way down the aisles to buy things they cannot afford and that they really don’t need.  There’s something about the concept of Black Friday being a national holiday – one more important than just about any other on the calendar – that makes me bat-shit crazy. Especially when there are still way too many kids who go to bed hungry every night.