Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thoughts on Ferguson

I don't care who you are and what you're upset about. I will never understand how you can set things on fire or break windows and take home the TV's or the liquor that you see in the stores simply because you're angry. What do you expect to happen next? This is where you live. This your community. The store owners are your neighbors, they work hard to make a living. And you'll have to look them in the eye the next day. And the day after that. Do you not want them to run businesses in your area? Do  you not want them to feel safe? Who'll pay for and do all the repairs and construction? Does the stolen liquor and equipment solve any problems? Does it help with the anger if you charge at a McDonald's. I was watching the TV yesterday and I saw a lot of a pointless destruction. The images from Ferguson felt like scenes from a war zone in a post-apocalyptic film. I was switching back and forth between the four new channels as they were showing the Ferguson riots, up close and live, from different angles. One of the networks was even showing us footage from two IPhones as their camera was smashed. Battlefield from the safety of my living room.  A friend came by last night as we were about to pick something on Netflix and as the Ferguson coverage was still on he said, "We should just watch this, it looks like a movie". The video was horrifying. And all I could think of is what in the world can ever be accomplished through something like that. How will the city, the neighborhood, the business owners and the people ever recover. How can they just get up and wipe the dust off? Was the damage done so severe that they can never recover from it and nothing would be as it once once. The ruins and the destruction will serve as a silent reminder for days, weeks maybe months. Maybe shame some people into thinking. This is your town, this is where you live and now you also live with the end result and the consequences. We live in a nation of laws. We have a process. If we don't like the process or we don't think it's fair, we change it. But we all operate within a system. We have rules, procedures and protections that give us an alternative to what we saw on the street yesterday. Do we really want to live in a world where we battle it out for survival and we air our grievances and frustrations by simply doing and taking whatever we feel at the moment? Where the physical strength trumps any other consideration, where "I want", "I need" and "I feel" are enough of a justification to do whatever a person desires? The thing about a system is this. A lot of times there will be those unhappy with what the System does even if the System gets it right. And sometimes of course the System will get it wrong. I don't want to deal with the underlying issue to much. A Grand Jury was asked to look into the evidence of the shooting and it was within its right to return whatever decision it did. It was obvious that many people were only interested in having the policeman punished regardless of the strength of the evidence, they wanted a particular result, irrespective of the legal process behind it. I doubt that these individuals would be happy even if the case went to trial if the jury didn't return the verdict thy expected. And as criminal juries deal with a legal standard that is very difficult to overcome and work with evidence and not emotions or beliefs the case wouldn't have been very difficult to prosecute. I'm not a huge fan of instituting legal proceedings just to make some people happy or to create a particular impression or to get a message to the community out. This is not what the law should be doing. A lot of issues are fascinating about this case, but the legal aspect is the least interesting. It's amazing how some people became so strongly personally invested in this story about a boy they've never met and an event they could not have possibly witnessed to form strong convictions about something they see on TV. Many projected their own experiences with prejudice onto this, because truth be told, we can reasonably reconstruct the chain of events, but none of us were there, we don't "know" what happened. Knowing something is different from believing, rationalizing, speculating or explaining away. It was interesting to me to see Al Sharpton talk about it as if he saw it with his own two eyes. I know that there's a history of distrust between racial minorities and police, well founded and documented. But we got to believe in the strength of the evidence, in the forensic science, in the testimony that is credible and not excluded in the law of physics. A lot of people were not interested in the rationale. They only wanted to vent by charging at the nearest McDonald's. Isn't interesting how some internalized this story, a story of a stranger so much, that they feel they need to unleash their anger on other people and their property? As if somebody offended their relative or a best   friend. But it's someone they only read about or saw on TV and based on understanding they formed based on the media. And it matters to them. Perhaps it's the sign of the digital age. News networks, internet flooding us with stories on a 24 hour cycle. Often playing on emotions when there are no new legitimate developments. You hear about them you talk about them, you watch them on your big screen TV. At one point they become more than stories, they become real people. And that bring up human emotions. Anger. Frustration.  I guess it's not more out of the ordinary as people invested in the lives of One Direction, Taylor Swift or Katharine  McPhee, where fans stand up for them, attack them, cry  for them as if there was a chance to have them over for tea.  I know I have my own life. People in it have enough problems without me looking for more across state lines. I volunteer in the community, I run a non profit and I try to do the right thing: by being kind considerate and helpful.

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