To preface the following remarks is to say that I think I'm pretty typical. If placed in the bell curve of the rest of Americans understanding and feelings about the world I think I'd fall in about the middle with the rest of the 66%. On the edges are the Obama's, Sharpton's and Clinton's views while on the other edge are the Hannity's, Bushes, Kennedy's and Savage's. Thus I think my take on the events of Ferguson Missouri is probably pretty much the same as most people.
There are some events in the world that on the face of it don't seem so significate. Like the assignation of Duke Ferdinand. Country leaders are getting murdered all the time. Look at our own number of presidents killed in office. But Ferdinand's killing set off a World War. Hopefully Ferguson won't be that bad.
On the face of it the killing of a black man by a white police officer doesn't seem so significate either. Even despite the color contrast police shoot criminals all the time. But look at the aftermath of this particular incident. Law enforcement around the states now have a heightened sense of prudence. This isn't that they have been doing anything particularly wrong it is now they have a greater sensitivity to the public perception of their law keeping. That in of itself is not a bad thing.
I think that even without the fanning of the racial flames of the Afro-Americans in Ferguson that this greater effort on the part of police to act correctly would have been an outcome of the Ferguson shooting anyway. From a distance, watching the Ferguson event unravel on television and reading about it on blogs and news outlets I wondered how was all this going to play out.
I called it a syndrome because of the components of the sad event came together in such a way as to be indicative of a disease. This specific disorder stems from a number of entwined factors that if brought together again will result in the same outcome. Let me detail the factors as I see them for the Ferguson event.
- Setting the stage.
- The trigger event.
- Community reaction to the event.
- Government reaction to the event.
- External to Ferguson reaction after the event.
Setting the stage was years in development. I don't have Ferguson's arrest records; but it goes with saying that a predominant black community (66%) is going to have black people arrested for crime more than white people. People will say that having a police force of mostly whites does not help the situation. In this day and age, regardless of what the Eric Holders and Al Sharptons will tell you that I don't think that is so. Here is my reasoning. I am going to try and resist interjecting solutions in this piece. What I'm striving for is understanding.
- Police officers regardless of color do not hire on to fulfill some sort of racial agenda. The first day on the job they don't say to themselves, "I'm really looking forward to stomping some minorities today." They come on to the job with the desire to uphold the law and maintain order. Yet police are people too. They get wore down, become callused with dealing with disrespect and law breaking over and over. Not only disrespect to them but to others in the community and to property as well. It doesn't matter their ethnicity. I think that a black policeman if their background is similar to the community they serve may come to the fed up point a little later than their white counterparts. But, they will get to that point.
- Part of the stage being set are those things that they don't have direct control over. A place like Ferguson is time worn. I have driven through towns similar to Ferguson that I haven't been to before and commented this is an old place. I see houses with siding needing paint. I see lawns that need mowed; I see yards that need lawns and the typical joke of broken down cars on blocks in the front yard is not some much a joke as partly true. There are several reasons for this. Foremost is the area, meaning the people, are economically depressed. This is mostly not their fault. If they don't have money for grass seed and still eat then they don't have grass. If they have grass and not money for gas for the lawn mower if they even have a lawn mower then the lawn doesn't get cut. This is mostly not their fault it's systemic of the country and their area in particular. Secondly is they are unhappy, sad, depressed or some variant of that because they barely make ends meet and they don't even know it. This sadness breeds apathy. Okay, the yard can't have grass but does that mean it has to have paper plates, potato chip bags, beer/coke bottles, broken furniture and cars up on blocks in it? Of course not. Yet when people get into that kind of condition they lose spirit. They simply don't care how their home looks; there are greater concerns to put their attention too. On the whole of it, this setting wears down the populace of Ferguson setting up an unhappy mood over all and because of that it doesn't take very much to flare that mood into anger and physical acting out. They are frustrated because of their lack of control over their circumstance thus it doesn't take a lot for them to project their woes or lay blame on the police, the state and the country as a whole.
All it takes is a trigger event to surface all this pent up frustration by the majority of the people in Ferguson. It doesn't have to a huge event like the shooting of Michael Brown. In Los Angeles the Watts riots was because of a beating of a black man, Rodney King, by police. In Ferguson it was a fatality shooting unfortunately for Brown.
The community of Ferguson's initial reaction to this event was outrage. I wouldn't add disbelief because to the black population of Ferguson it was all to believable. Then as tugging on a ball of twine the situation begins to unravel. People took to the streets with accusations that the police abuse their authority. They did not have any clear picture of what expired except a young dead black man lied in the street for four hours before being removed. Aside of the fist waving and yelling it wasn't till until the governments, state and federal got involved that Ferguson really started going sideways.
Look at the government reaction. Here are some reactions that adversely affected the people already upset in Ferguson and many in the rest of the world.
- The Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri vows to prosecute the officer. He says this within hours of the shooting.
- The Department of Justice swears to investigate the Police department because if it's complexion and the police officer swearing to get full weight of the law brought forth on to them.
- The President of the United States makes parallel comparisons to Jim Crow law of the late 1800's and how the racial divide in the U.S. is as bad if not worst than it's ever been.
- Prominent black leaders descend on the Ferguson community and from the podium and pulpit literally scream hate speech driving a greater wedge between black and white people.
Few are heard that call for patience and reason over the din of those mentioned above. This sets the ground work for more upsetting events like the black man that died of a heart attack in New York at the hands of police that brought about the murder of two New York policemen in their patrol car.
Who is hurt in all this? There is direct and indirect consequences. First the direct effect, the city of Ferguson is torn up. The area that is torn up is the area that can least afford to be damaged. Infrastructure, streets, poles, electrical service and property are damaged and in that process looting and damaging of local businesses that are of small owners that live and serve the community. Many are permanently put out of business. Ferguson will never recover fully from the mayhem. Yet, those like Al Sharpton go away back to their home states and affluent neighborhoods with the idea of the good they did for those poor folk down in Ferguson. They added to the syndrome like the festering of a wound treated with dirty hands. The indirect consequences are far reaching as other communities are sensitized to perceived wrong doing by authorities. Flaring up of smoldering racial hatreds like the one that brought about the murder of the two New York policemen.
Yet for all that our system is so well built by the founders of our country that we can and do prevail with the rule of law. In the end the truth is known. Michael Brown was a criminal and likely due to his size and personality would have done harm to the policeman if he could have. Both the Grand Jury and eventually the Department of Justice vindicated the policeman's action. The rule of law carries the day despite the ill wishes of people in power that want it otherwise.
In times past in other countries rulers, kings, dictators and the like established a rule of law to control the people. In the United States we have a rule of law that controls the President, Congress and Courts and all the rest of us so that the people as a whole cannot be abused. Our leaders power stems from upholding the rule of law not the other way around. The Ferguson event is test of that concept and bears witness to the granite foundation our countries government is set upon.