I really didn’t want to write up a post on what’s happening in Ferguson. I’d already written about the subject back when it first exploded earlier this year, and my feelings hadn’t changed much since then. (Not to mention the fact that I’m on vacation, and writing about such a gloomy topic is more than a bit of a downer.) I also don’t like writing about topics where I know much less than I feel I ought to if I want to be able to say anything constructive.
But . . .
As I’m watching my Facebook feed implode with people on both sides of the issue, there comes a point where I just can’t keep my mouth shut anymore. The good news is that readership is down over the holiday, so most of you probably won’t read this, anyway. Right? Anyway.
I’d like to start out with a fairly basic summary of what I’m seeing on Facebook. On the one side, you have a lot of people very upset that Darren Wilson wasn’t indicted for killing Michael Brown. They feel like this is a travesty of justice, and that it is a symptom of the devaluing of non-white lives in America.
On the other side, you’ve got a group who are set on pointing out that there’s an alternative explanation for events, where Michael Brown was really assaulting an officer, and where the officer really *didn’t* deserve to be indicted.
Here’s the thing. Unless you were actually there and witnessed the shooting firsthand, I don’t think there’s any way of knowing what actually happened at this point. There’s enough written about it on both sides to justify whatever you want to personally believe, whether it’s that Michael Brown was innocent of any wrong doing or the opposite. You want to take a side and start throwing facts around, you’re going to have plenty of ammunition to throw.
At this point, however, I’d argue that the actual facts of this single incident no longer are what’s most important.
Why do I say that? Because people keep trying to judge the reaction to those events solely by which narrative they think is true.
And that doesn’t matter.
I’ll be honest. This post is mainly directed at my friends who are posting defenses of Darren Wilson and talking about how much the rioters are overreacting in the extreme. I’m not going to defend the rioters–I don’t know them, I don’t know the situation on the ground, and I have no way of understanding where they’re coming from. But one thing that *is* clear?
People are beyond upset about the way they’re treated in this country.
As a writer, when I’m looking for feedback, I’ve learned to pay attention to indisputable opinions from readers. If someone tells me they found a part boring or confusing, there’s no way I can argue with that. You can’t argue with emotions. People feel the way they feel. You might try to argue that those feelings are unjustified, but at that point, you’re pretty much just being a jerk. If someone says they didn’t like a movie and you say they’re wrong, what is it that you’re arguing?
What I’m trying to say is that going around telling people that they’re wrong to feel like society undervalues them, or doesn’t listen to them, or is biased against them–doing that isn’t just petty and annoying, it’s proving the point.
Every post about how these rioters are unjustified only adds further evidence to the argument that they have every right to be upset. And more arguments to the need to somehow deal with this structural problem of our country.
I’m not here to offer any proposals on how to fix things. I tend to think it’s something that has to be dealt with over time, as more and more people begin to see that there’s a problem, and more and more people try to actually deal with it instead of just pointing fingers at other people and being self-defensive.
In any case, that’s all I have time for today. As always, I don’t mind comments on this subject–I encourage them actually. All I ask is that people remain respectful on both sides of the issue.