Last week, the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson exploded in conflict. An 18-year old black man was shot and killed by a white police office. Until the past few days, the situation failed to grab many people’s attention, including my own. For me, I saw it as another conflict that had nothing to do with me, like it was in another part of the world. Part of it is that St. Louis isn’t that close to me, but the other part is just an overall callousness I’ve developed toward the news. I don’t trust our “free press” anymore, regardless of which side of the political aisle they lean.
But then I started reading a few articles that popped up on my Twitter feed and the gravity of the situation gripped me. Have we become so comfortably numb that we fail to see the importance of the situation? Are we so consumed with ourselves that we’ve begun letting our humanity slip away? And finally, is “white America” numb to this because it didn’t happen to “one of our own”? Let me share how it’s hit me as I’ve sobered up to what’s happening in Ferguson.
While we probably won’t know all the facts for a while, an armed law enforcement officer shooting an unarmed man is horrifying. A report out today said that Michael Brown was wanted for robbery at a convenience store. Say this is true, is that a crime worthy of having a gun pulled on someone? I read somewhere that the officer feared for his life, and that’s why he fired his weapon. Ok…why did he pull the trigger? Another report tells of a young man on the ground with hands in the air in surrender before the trigger was pulled. Taking a cue from the Trayvon Martin case, it will be a long time before we really know. What we do know raises lots of questions though.
I’m also struck by the “us vs them” mentality we still have in America. When will we drop our prejudices about people that look different than us? Whether it’s skin color, religion, tattoos and piercings, education or income levels, or how we dress. We are all people made by the same Creator for a purpose. Oh how it must grieve Him to watch how much we hate each other. Oh that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream would come true: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Life would be beautiful if we would embrace our differences and pursue to understand rather than judge.
Another thing that grabs me is that when I look at the pictures of protestors throwing Maltov cocktails and police dressed in riot gear carrying machine guns, I feel like I’m looking at pictures from another place in the world. But then I remember it’s in St. Louis, a place I’ve visited a few times in my life. No, this conflict is happening on American soil in an American city. It seems like a scene out of a movie.
It’s no secret the world is going crazy right now. But it’s coming to America now. We are not immune. We have been lulled to sleep by things that don’t matter. It’s time to wake up! We need to regain our humanity. We need to realize that we have let freedom slowly slip through our fingers because we have stopped caring for our neighbors.
Imagine a different Ferguson. Maybe it’s Oak Ridge, Aiken, Columbia, or Frederick. What happens when we are no longer allowed to express our freedom of speech when we disagree with an action or decision? Ferguson shows that reality is coming to pass. Wake up America! Fight for your freedom by caring about your fellow Americans.
Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. -Dalai Lama
When freedom does not have a purpose, when it does not wish to know anything about the rule of law engraved in the hearts of men and women, when it does not listen to the voice of conscience, it turns against humanity and society. –Pope John Paul II