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This is not your grandfather’s America. Doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but please, for heaven’s sake, don’t pretend like it is. It is revealing when Communist Party USA and other out-of-state rabble-rousers come into Ferguson, pre-judge a case before all the facts are known, judge, try and execute a man before his day in court, and respond to a so-called act of “injustice” by committing more injustices through looting, rioting and continuing to shoot at police, etc. to make people think it is our grandfather’s America.
What if the facts turn out to be opposed to their desired outcome? What if the cop was justified, by reasonable standards, in what he did? Was Mr. Brown, then, the racist, for attacking the cop? Until we have all the evidence, how can any of us make our claims of innocence or guilt, let alone charges of racism?
But this obscures what is perhaps the most important issue raised by this entire episode. At the end of the day, it isn’t the guilt or innocence of either party that is most important for our country (though it is certainly important to those directly involved). What is most important for our country is coming to grips with the forces that this boisterous little episode have brought to the fore in all areas of our society, left and right frankly.
I am very disturbed by how claiming victim status is an almost automatic ticket to fame or favors in America today, in all areas of our society, not just criminal justice. It’s not only wrong, but it demeans and makes light of the plight of actual victims. Mr. Brown may in fact turn out to be a legitimate victim. He may not. Facts, evidence and the law are what should decide. What is disturbing is the clamor for such a status. That should be deeply unsettling for a country traditionally committed to the idea of merit.
We have also heard a lot of people noting how the Ferguson police force is “not representative” of the racial make-up of Ferguson, and this is being used to paint it as somehow illegitimate. Well, 13 percent of America is black. Should we expect President Obama to resign since he is “not representative” of the racial make-up of the U.S.? Or maybe he should stay in office since he’s only half black, and that makes him a lot closer to the white racial make-up of the U.S. Or maybe his black side covers the 13 percent, and his white side covers the 65 percent of whites, which makes him representative of 78 percent of the population and hence legitimate. Is that how this should work? It seems that in the 1960s too many white people had a problem with Dr. King’s dream. In 2014, it seems too many black people do.
On the other hand, it is deeply disturbing (as well as extremely disappointing) to see so many on the right (many who claim to be Christians) almost clamor to defame Michael Brown. It’s almost like they have completely forgotten that a young man is dead, and all of his life potential is wasted, and that he has left behind a hurting and aching family. Many on the right, once again, are falling for the media ploy of dividing every issue into two sides and refuse to rise above the fray and get to the heart of the matter – that all are innocent until proven guilty, which is the one thing those rioters and looters seem to have most forgotten. Michael Brown doesn’t need to be guilty for this to be true, so why don’t we remind them of the big truth and let the little truth many of us only think we know for sure lie low until we all have the facts? Do I personally believe the evidence is weighing heavily against him at the moment? Yes, but I could be wrong, for I presume him innocent until proven guilty, because that is the heart of the matter.
Some on the right have justified their actions and words because they are supposedly “fighting the mob.” Well, since when has fighting the mob required missing the point so badly? Would not strenuously arguing for the sacred principle of innocent until proven guilty be more ennobling and more healing for our society, which is increasingly divided against itself? Why do so many of us have to jump the gun on the investigation, and in the name of “fighting the mob” and the “riot mentality” violate the exact same principle they are violating in the name of supposedly fighting them? Why does one party have to be guilty in order for us to “fight the mob”? Asserting this principle is taking the opposite side of the mob, whereas declaring Michael Brown guilty prior to knowing all the facts (and using it as a club to fight stupid, media-instigated PR wars) is a subtle form of the exact same thing. And we wonder why our public discourse is in shambles! For yet again, we have another round of angry, blustery conservatives in the media, roiling up their own base, missing the point, showing little empathy and turning even more people off.
This whole thing reminds me of John Adams, one our most brilliant and honorable Founding Fathers, when he defended the British soldiers accused of carrying out the Boston Massacre (for which he was heavily criticized), and he won. The barbaric British, against all expectations, were proven to have actually been innocent. I have a feeling that many progressives would accuse him of defending “killers,” while many so-called conservatives would have been quite happy to leave it at “those pesky colonists had it coming to them. See, I’m fighting the mob.” Fortunately, our founders and men like Adams tended to rise above such vapid, brainless and heartless forms of non-thinking and unjust acting.
It was men like Adams, and it must be men and women like him today, who stand up in the midst of the nonsense and absurdity on both sides and say, as Adams did, “Fiat justitia ruat caelum! Let justice be done though the heavens fall!”
If they don’t, a young man will not have been the only thing that died in Ferguson.
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