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Ferguson, MO and Our Neighbors’ Love

I am a thirty-nine year old white male in suburbia. When I hear of an altercation between an eighteen year old black male and a police officer, my natural inclination is to take the side of the police. For that matter, if I hear it is an eighteen year old white kid, Asian kid, Hispanic kid, or pretty much anyone else, my inclination is to side with the police. Say of me what you might, but I suspect far more people are with me on that than may admit it. The police are usually on the up and up, they usually are right, and whether you like or not you do have to respect their authority how ever much you might resent it.

When I heard — now what seems like an eternity ago — that Michael Brown had been shot, according to numerous press reports and the voices of eye witnesses, twenty to thirty feet from the police car and in the back, even with my natural inclination toward the police it seemed egregious. It was, in my mind, wrong.

We now know from Michael Brown’s autopsy that he was not shot in the back. We now know from other eye witnesses that Michael Brown did attack the police officer who stopped him. If leaks are to be believes, we know the officer was seriously injured in the attack.

There is a lot that bothers me about all of this. I am bothered by the slow response from the Ferguson Police. Many facts could have mitigated some of the issues. I am bothered by so much of the media getting so many of the early facts wrong. I am bothered by so many people who wish to treat this as a binary situation. I am bothered by the Al Sharpton’s and Jesse Jackson’s of the world swooping in to fan the flames and fundraise.

But I am most bothered by the near gleefulness of some that the early facts were wrong. I do not wish to upset friends and friendships, but I have been flooded with emails and comments on social media to the effect of “see now, the thug got what he deserved. Will you admit you were wrong?” That bothers me most of all and on two fronts. First, because it distracts from but does not negate the issue of police over-militarization. That is still a separate and legitimate issue some conservatives suddenly want to casually set aside and not make eye contact with.

But most importantly, I am appalled at the people who think “the thug got what he deserved.” And that has been a common sentiment of more than one person driving around with an ichthys on the back of their car. I am appalled at the people who view this situation in terms of winners and losers: of arguments, of laws, of politics, etc. There are no winners here. There’s a dead eighteen year old, a community torn up, an injured policeman, and a hell of a lot of division upon which the usual vultures will feast.

But there are no winners.

Ferguson, MO is about 650 miles from where I am and they are my neighbors. They are American citizens. They are families. And because of a tragedy they find themselves at the center of a national political conversation where there are now sides trying to win an argument and a fight. I am not sure what the victory will be. But damned if it won’t be politicized.

After the jury rendered its verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, I wrote “There are no sides but Justice to root for, but a Justice that will leave one side unsatisfied and still empty. Both sides made mistakes in this awful mess.” It is true in Ferguson, MO too.

Michael Brown’s death should not be political. The injured policeman should not be political. I maintain faith in the majority of this country’s citizens that they continue to care for their neighbors and pray for the dead, the wounded, and the divided in Ferguson, MO. But damned if the loudest voices are not convinced that there must be winners, losers, and scores to settle.

There are no winners in Ferguson. Only tragedy with too few willing to let there be healing. Ferguson needs less twitter pundits and TV personalities arguing and a whole lot more people praying. Ferguson could use the Word right now, but there are too many people making coin instead.

I hope this is the last I ever write about Ferguson, MO.

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