The morning after the made for TV event that was the spectacle of the first night's rioting in Ferguson (I write it that way as there is probably more to come) and social media is alive with comment. Conservatives and law and order types are doing a bit of an end-zone dance at Officer Wilson's not having been indicted, and Liberals are falling all over themselves to burnish their empathy credentials by showing how "down" they are with the miscreants burning, looting, and injuring.
Like any of these incendiary situations, there really are only "less bad" outcomes, and no real good ones. There are parents, and friends, and relatives who grieve the death of their son and friend. There is a policeman who feared for his life and reacted. There are people who believe they cannot get a square deal from the police. There are people who believe those people should be more restrained in their reactions. Their are business owners waking up today to ruin.
Let's face it. There is no rational logic to looting, burning, and destroying police cars--but this isn't a logical or rational reaction. This is emotion, and we need to view it in those terms. A grand jury has reviewed the evidence and decided not to indict--something RARE indeed in grand jury proceedings (a sign of just how weak the case was). Every single witness corroborating Officer Wilson's testimony was black. No person who made statements about him having shot Mr. Brown in the back actually witnessed the conflict. Those of us sitting in our comfy places watching and tut-tutting probably don't understand deeply enough the mistrust that exists between a good bit of the black community and police forces. I'll wager that if we were to get some of these hooligans to sit down and present them with the evidence, they might even come to the same conclusion as the grand jury--but their reactions would still be the same. This isn't necessarily about Brown's death, it is about perceptions built up over years and simmering rage. The Ferguson incident simply provides a convenient outlet for these emotions.
The inconvenient thing though, is that another man's life and liberty were on the line here, a man paid to protect and keep order, a man who approached two men walking down the middle of the street impeding traffic, when sidewalks were available to them. Putting aside for a moment, this clearly unobjectionable instance of where we as a civil society would wish our police to get involved, upon closer inspection, the men met the description of two men who had just robbed a convenience store and roughed up the proprietor, something store videos later confirmed. I truly believe that there are those protesting in the streets and those sitting in comfy dens of liberal smugness who find none of this important, and that deep down, they would have us sacrifice Officer Brown's freedom in order to sate their sense of injury. They would have us believe that it is better that Wilson go to prison an innocent man, than the "wrongful death" of the "unarmed", "gentle giant" Michael Brown go unpunished and "the community's" rage go untended.
What good comes of this tragic situation? For one thing, the riots last summer and the response shown by law enforcement raise important questions about the increasing militarization of police departments, something that causes me a good deal of pause. Secondly, and this is something Mr. Brown's family has taken up as a cause, there is the growing sense that police should wear body cameras not whose purpose would be not unlike that of the dashboard cameras with which we have all become familiar. These cameras are for the protection of the public AND police alike, and rather than spending gobs of cash on uparmored HUMVEES, I'd like to see cops on the beat so equipped.
And so Ferguson will burn for a few more days, innocent businesses will be ruined, cable news will be fed, and race victimization merchants will take to the hustings, chief among them our President and Attorney General. And the Party which birthed them (Messers Obama and Holder) will continue to treat African Americans as vassals, beholden to the machine that keeps them in the conditions that create the tensions we see spilling over on our TV sets.