Two trends noted in Ferguson

Like many people with interest in the need for equality of civil rights in America, I was disheartened by the grand jury decision in the case of Officer Wilson’s shooting of the young Michael Brown. Brown’s behavior might be worth questioning, but really, firing 12 shots at him with clear intent to kill cannot possibly be justified by the level of threat that an unarmed young man might have presented. Yet the grand jury let Wilson off with not even a reprimand, as far as I’m aware – and thus legitimated the shooting.

(It should be noted that the prosecutor in the case appears to have proceeded in a manner bordering incompetence. He clearly didn’t want the case and probably wanted exactly the decision he got.)

I won’t comment on the riots. Riots are like enraged beasts, they follow the logic of unleashed violence, which is never a good thing. But the rage itself is sometimes understandable. I do note it interesting that the Ferguson area – indeed, the state of Missouri – spent the week leading up to the grand jury preparing for riotous protests – an indication that the decision was widely expected as it in fact turned out. This suggests a deep sense of what constitutes race relations among Missourians.

I would rather note (and without further discussion now) two disturbing trends in American culture that the Ferguson affair high-lights:

1) Legitimation of lethal force used against young black men when white men ‘feel threatened’ (whether police officers or not).

2) The militarization of the police and their self-perception as encamped to discipline a ‘native’ population.

The first trend is simply a continued development of racist themes with deep roots in American culture. The second, however, while it too has been developing for some decades now, is alarming in its possible future fruition. Many police officers simply no longer seem to see themselves as part of the community they police. Indeed many of them no longer come from the community into which they are hired. This detaches them from concern for the people of community as people, and makes resort to lethal force – and strong arm tactics – ever easier. And just when the police seem to be developing this sense of defensive detachment, the Pentagon is tossing military equipment at them as though the ‘war on terror’ was being fought here in America – and against American communities themselves.

Something has gotten very sick here. And rather than have a public discussion on the issues, we have media circuses, where every ‘opinion’ – no matter how unjust, or how preposterous – is given equal weight.

Well; the Justice Department has announced it is pursuing further investigation into the Ferguson affair; it is still possible that, in the Federal system, Wilson may still be called to account for violation of civil rights. Let’s just hope that this not just another ring in the circus. The Brown family surely deserves better. We all deserve better.

Below, some blogs I follow that have commented on the Ferguson affair today, either in whole or in part, some in inquiry, some in rant, some in sorrow: (This post also includes links to some topics relevant to the racial gestalt of the Ferguson phenomenon.)

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