“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” (Attributed to Isoroku Yamamoto after the bombing of Pearl Harbor)
Ferguson, Missouri is still in an uproar, and rightfully so, after the shooting death of Michael Brown. For everyone who has tried to downplay the outrage, I offer this: What if he was your son? Would that stir you to action? Take off all of the filters that have been placed on this incident to distort our vision – he was a bully, he was a robbery suspect, he was young and black (therefore, likely a troublemaker) – and replace them with the only one that matters. He was human. A life has been ended once again – whether by the hands of police, vigilantes, or each other – it’s just wrong. We have come to devalue life and it is accepted as normal. And there are those who would add to the killing, eye for an eye, as if that would solve the problem.
Once upon a time, our nation was filled with hope for the future of our country. We shall overcome, was sung hand in hand. Marches for freedom and equality were made. Instead of taking up arms, we took each others’ arms. All races worked side by side to fix the problem. The goal was to leave a better world for the next generation. I’m too young to have been part of that movement but I was raised on the stories and the accounts in the news. I recall visions of Coretta Scott-King at the funeral of her husband. And that he had a dream. “One day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.” Oh, but it was a great dream! But, sadly, even with the advent of an African American president, it has not yet been realized.
We have been divided into two camps, those who support the officer, and those who denounce his actions. Let me say that I have the utmost respect for police officers. They do what many of us would not, could not do. They are warriors on our streets, some of them having served in our military. We honor them for that. But we cannot paint them all with a broad brush. They are neither all right, nor all wrong. They are individuals, people with spotty pasts, sometimes causing them to make bad decisions for which they should be held accountable. Same with Mike Brown. He was neither villain nor saint. He was an imperfect person. Regardless to how we try to justify what was done, what followed afterwards only makes the whole event more questionable. We have video of him lying in the street. For hours. Horrendous.
What we have, I believe, is not a race issue but a human issue. I think we can justify what is done to others because it’s not been done to us. God forbid and help us all that we should only care if it touches us directly. I, myself, have been guilty of sitting in my suburban cul de sac and thinking, “I’m glad I don’t live in Chicago,” when I hear of another shooting. Peace and safety, we think, from the comfort of our homes. But the Bible says that is when destruction is certain to come. We have become a nation of “Us” and “Them.” We distance ourselves. “That’s their problem,” we think. But it’s our problem. Not just a black problem. It’s a people problem. If we don’t care for them, their calamity may one day spill out and over into our own streets. Indeed, it’s already happening. Our suburbs are not so reliably safe anymore.
So what will it take, if not the death of Mike Brown to wake us up and stir us to action? To make us realize that we are one? That we stand or fall together? What affects one, will eventually affect us all. Our humanity lies in identifying with the struggle, not in distancing ourselves. So I say, yes, let us take up arms, but not against each other. As defenders of this great country, let us stoke that fire, the smoldering embers that have caused us to take offense for our brothers’ and sisters’ sake, our fellow human beings, and make right what has been wrong for so long. We are that same giant that has risen to the defense of the hapless and maltreated across the planet. It’s a sad day when Egypt and Iraq can condemn America, and Amnesty International has reported to the scene to insure that our human rights are not being violated. Defender of the world called on the carpet for the mistreatment of our own citizens. Wow.
We can do better America. We must. The eyes of the world are on us. I’m calling on all that is noble in each of us to respond and to awaken that apathetic sleeper in all of us. We must care what happens to our fellow Americans. I find encouragement from those who have had their own inner giant stirred to action. I see not only black faces but white faces in the crowd, protesting, fed up, as they should be. I’ve heard stories of residents who’ve banded together to protect stores from looting and helped to put back together the businesses that have been ransacked. And the 90 year old holocaust survivor who showed up for the demonstration and was arrested – how cool was that? May God grant me that same fire and resolve when I am her age! People are protesting peacefully together against injustice, instead of being divided into us and them. Because it’s just wrong. We all know it.
In the words of Dr. King, “Now is the time to change racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice ring out for all of God’s children.” I have hope that good can come from all of this and that maybe the dream is not so out of reach.