11/25/14

Ferguson . . .

Something shocking-and-yet-not-at-all-surprising happened last night in the suburbs of St. Louis, MO.

The parents of Michael Brown Jr. said this . . .

“While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change… We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful.”

Let that soak in for a second. The two people MOST impacted by the police officer, Darren Wilson, shooting (that he shot him - 12 times - is FACT) the teen-aged Michael Brown asked that everyone else keep cooler heads after a grand jury found there was not enough evidence to go after office Wilson in a court of law.

Let's step away from our Law & Order education on the law and understand what a Grand Jury "does". They get ALLLLLLL the evidence. They get to examine stuff, hear testimony, ask questions (generally just for clarification), and have far, far greater access to the elements of a crime than the general public does. It is all done under relative secrecy and anonymity. This is, in fact, PART of our due process of law.

We know Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown. We know he claimed it was in self defense. We know that there were witnesses with conflicting stories. We know that there was confusion and chaos. The Grand Jury knows (or they state as much in their decision to not indict/open the door for prosecution) that there was not enough evidence or testimony to support a full-blown court case.

This outrages the "general public" in me. I want to at least know all they know. I want witnesses and public trials, and testimony and affidavits. I want deliberations and verdicts. Of course I wanted those things in the trials of OJ Simpson and George Zimmerman and I was unhappy with the outcome (I wanted appeals and another appeal, etc. in those) so let's be clear that my Law & Order law degree is not going to get me very far.

Yet all this seems empty to me. It has been nearly four long, full months of waiting. Protests. Destruction of property. Open examination of police departments and police policies. Discussions of race and race relations in the suburbs and in the dynamic of police and public. There has been enough public discourse and social media venom to shake the world.

I have gotten in no less than three spats with people I otherwise know and enjoy over this stuff. And it is always the same . . . either you're a liberal tree hugging cop hater who refuses to admit how hard it is out there protecting people (the subtle implication being to be a white cop out there protecting black precincts/beats (you all remember Carl Winslow, right? In Family Matters or Die Hard (not his character's name there - did anyone ever think "That's probably a racist cop." or "Man his job must be brutal.") OR you are a white guy who comes off as half racist blatantly saying what is just subtly mentioned above. And G-D forbid if you are a white guy who tries to empathize or understand that, as a white guy, the ONLY thing we can do is try to approximate what it must be like for either person/side of the crime and that we should want a public, in the open, court proceeding to help us understand and be sure justice is carried (as millions think it was for OJ and George Zimmerman, to clarify).

This is a silly debate. It won't end today. And I doubt the debate will end soon. I doubt it will end ever.

So here is what I did last night. I closed my Twitter account (as if the Browns were asking me, directly, to calm the f*ck down). I am going to close my mind to this one - for now.

I will continue to live my comfortable, white, middle-aged, middle-class life. I'll try to fight any pre-/ill-conceived notions I might have (about crime, law enforcement, race dynamics, ec.). I'll fight against racism, bigotry, small-mindedness, and hate at every turn. I'll raise my daughter to hopefully be even more wide-eyed, respectful, and aware of the world than I am (she'll need it, she is multi-ethnic and might eventually face slings and arrows herself). I'll try to empathize.

I'll try to appreciate that Michael Brown's shooting didn't happen to me. I am not him, Darren Wilson, or the families of either men. I'm not even technically a member of either community (St. Louis is eight hours-ish away . . . I am thankful this didn't happen here, frankly). I'm going to just be peaceful about it. I'm going to hope that some good will come out of all of this. That some good and positive change might come. The Browns believe that. I should, too.

Rest in peace, Michael Brown. May your memory be a blessing and your sacrifice for a greater good.