Tuesday, August 19, 2014


On Sunday I watched Captain Johnson stand in front of a group of people and say, I'm sorry. For me, there are no two more powerful words. In my personal life it has been the thing that brings me closer to someone. When someone can just own a thing that has happened between us. Just hold it. I let go of things really fast when that happens. In a civil crisis it's so powerful. I could feel the collective shoulders relax. 
Leadership in Missouri has been horrifyingly bad. Saying all the wrong things in all the worst ways. The governor actually said if there was going to be justice there must first be peace. Really? So justice is only there when things are calm and people are well behaved? 
April linked an interesting article: In Defense of the Ferguson Riots. I was thinking about it last night as I watched live coverage of the night and the sudden shift from peaceful to violent. I thought about it this morning as I listened to people talk about provocateurs and thugs. 
As things were unfolding last night journalists kept talking about not being able to see why things got heated. Some of that might be vantage point but I imagine some of it was that not much happened. Images of tanks, tear gas, snipers, just way too much positioned against people in t-shirts and shorts made it seem likely that there was over reaction on both sides. 
Actually, I hate that idea of both sides. I hate it when it's used in conversations about these events. There are things that are clear. An unarmed, young, black man was shot multiple times by a police officer. No matter what happened it seems to me that multiple guns shots are an over reaction. And every night since then it has seemed to me that the same over reaction has played out. There may be two sides here but they are not equal. 
And one side is supposed to be in service to the other. They are there to protect and serve. They are there to protect not just people but ideals. Ideals like justice. Ideals like freedom of the press. Ideals like the right to assemble. Ideals like the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. They may also be there to protect private property and commerce but it feels like they lean toward that and ignore the others. 
In an area like Ferguson commerce is probably made up of small businesses. Mom and Pop shops. It's hard to talk about them in strict Marxist terms. It's hard because they are so small and usually owed by hard working people. I worked for small businesses most of my life. It's also often true that the people are often better off than the community in which they run their shops. Maybe not much better off but usually some what. They work hard and they enjoy benefits. OK. 
It has always been frustrating when civil unrest tears down community resources. But the focus on business concerns rather than focusing on the systems of repression and alienation and the murder of a young man irritates me. It's just not the point. 
As much as I admire Captain Johnson his presence is a way to pacify an enraged community. He hugs people. He talks in soothing tones. And he defends the use of tear gas. 
Last night Chris Hayes had rocks thrown at him and his reaction was to say that "people are mad." People are mad. That observation was almost as powerful as the apology. It was an observation of something that is true. Of course it's true. A young man is dead. The streets are filled with tanks and tear gas. There may be bad actors but there is also rage. Rage at a system that should be raged against by all of us. 
Trayvon's mother wrote a beautiful piece in Time in which she says, if they refuse to hear us we will make them feel us. And that is the truest truth. 

1 comment:

Kristina said...

Very well said Tish!