American Culture

State of Emergency! Ferguson battens hatches

And who can blame Governor Nixon for that?

Like most folks who keep up at least a little with the news, I’ve heard a thing or three about Ferguson. Of late, I’ve actually stopped keeping up with news in general to the extent I used to. Partly that’s burnout. Partly it’s that I’ve found a few other things to keep me fiddling while Rome burns. But I still scan the headlines at least a few times a week. Maybe it’s like a junkie getting a half-assed fix. Maybe it’s just a good idea to keep some fresh idea of what’s going on in the world. Anyone blow up Russia yet? Has the ebola outbreak spread to my neck of the woods? What about Kim Kardashian’s ass? You know, the usual important stuff.

Then there’s Ferguson. For those who have stayed far better informed on the developments there, I’ll spare you the almost requisite restatement of all the facts, known, unknown, supposed, and made up out of whole cloth alike. For those who are actually just tuning in, Google is two doors down and on the left. Can’t miss it. Though I’m not sure why this headline would have gotten your attention to begin with. Ah, well.

What I do know now is just this much:

Missouri’s governor declared a state of emergency on Monday and authorized the state’s National Guard to support police in case of violence after a grand jury decides whether to indict a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager.

I’m probably going to come across as a cad for this, but hey, it wouldn’t be the first time. Ferguson, Schmerguson. Seriously, this is one of those cases where I would love to get behind the right cause, be on the right side of history, support the protesters without equivocation, etc., etc., usw, &tc. I just can’t.

Have the cops since the Brown shooting been an overwhelming force of quasi-militarized douchebaggery? Sure. And yes, I think that’s a problem. Are there not enough black people on the force? Are there not enough black people on the city council? Who swung first? Was Brown in the right? In the wrong? Was Wilson in the right? In the wrong?

For the moment, that’s all beside the point. As some (but not all) (tip o’ the hat to Robert Anton Wilson) protesters have clearly said, “We want an indictment. The cops don’t like it.” Since they were chanting it, I’m assuming they’re saying it quite a bit. Let’s take a moment to cut through all the speculation and general media-aggravated BS and get right down to basics. What’s an indictment? A formal accusation of wrong-doing. A decision to charge someone with a crime.

Hence, the grand jury. That group of people (and heaven help us all should we ever be subject to the whims of such a group) is party to the most complete evidence pro and con available. Evidence I don’t have. Evidence you don’t have. Evidence the protesters don’t have. Evidence of which eye- and ear-witnesses, both real and imagined, are only a part, and an unreliable one at that. And what the protesters want so badly in the absence of this evidence, in other words, solely driven by a mixture of hearsay, gut feeling, and a historical sense of getting fucked by The Man, is that Wilson, evidence be damned, be formally charged with a crime. Wilson, not The Man. Truly, if The Man could be put on the stand, slammed in the head with a gavel just out of principle, and strung up in plain sight for all to see, his collective legs twitching and kicking, I’d buy ringside seats. Sadly, we haven’t found a way to prosecute entire systems of evil and corruption. So that leaves us with one individual, quite likely a complete jack-off (yeah, my own high opinion of white cops in black neighborhoods shows through there) who the masses, washed or otherwise, want to see twisting in the wind, if only as a scapegoat.

I’m sorry, but that just won’t do.

Do the residents of Ferguson, and a million other communities just like it, have a legitimate beef with a corrupt system set in place long before they were born, a system that serves precious few, and certainly not them? Probably. But to the extent that the protesters in Ferguson are not protesting for the sake of genuine truth, justice, and rule by law, but for scapegoating and vengeance, I cannot and will not get behind that.

However many balls have been dropped, Governor Nixon has done today only what was necessary. He’s played the hand that’s been dealt him. There may or may not be unrest. There may or may not be violence in the streets. If there is, I’m damned sure the police and National Guard will entirely overreact, as is their nature, and that is an injustice in itself that needs to be addressed with greater and greater urgency. But, people of Ferguson, correction, some people of Ferguson, protesters in Ferguson, somewhere down the road you’ve been blinded by the history of injustice to which you’ve been subjected. You’ve been blinded by your own biases, which, to be sure, you’ve probably come by honestly. You’ve been blinded by the value you place in hearsay. You’ve been blinded by a desire for revenge. And, so blinded, you’ve forgotten that, if anything, you should be protesting for justice, not an indictment.

And by the way, will some of you please start meeting with friends, identifying likely civic leaders, gathering funds to cover the costs of photocopies, donuts, and coffee, and start pushing to get better representation on the city council? Then you’ll be in a position to actually fix some of these issues. Maybe. Until then, I estimate your chances to be between nil and squat. You’ve got the population numbers. GOTV and do something about it. If you can mobilize protests where people risk getting shot with rubber bullets or getting their skulls cracked, surely you can do that.

Ferguson. Meh.


Image credit: Tolbasiaigerim @ Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under Creative Commons.