Cable. We don’t have it.
Dish Network. We don’t have it.
Netflix. We have.
Hulu Plus. We have.
Why? Aside from not being big TV watchers, things like Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri are why.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that folks need to be informed. Ignorance and stupidity be damned. However, I have a few tender souls in my house that, when viewing the news, wind up all anxious and worried, unable to sleep or control the crying because of their own empathy.
I read exactly ZERO articles and watched NO programs about this story. All the information I have was gleaned from ONE article shared by journalist Connie Schultz‘s Facebook feed and a few conversations with my nosier-than-I husband. However, that little chunk of the mountain of information swirling the internet and airwaves was more than I needed to form an opinion. And my opinion is this: none of the story is good. Every angle is wrong.
I didn’t know Michael Brown. The evidence released in the article, at the very least, tells me he may not have acted the way he should have.
I don’t know Darren Wilson. The evidence released in the article and accompanying pictures suggest there may have been some lies told.
I’ve never lived in Ferguson, Missouri. From what I’ve learned about the riots and looting, I’m kind of glad I don’t.
I’ve never had the privilege to serve on any jury, much less one that shoulders the responsibility of whether or not there is sufficient evidence to go forward with a trial. After this sort of tragedy, I hope I never do.
Since the grand jury chose not to indict the officer, I searched for an article, any article that might shine some compassion on a very difficult and muddled story. I’ve yet to find one. (Feel free to share one you’ve found in the comments. I’d like to read it.) For me the whole situation is that we are dealing with people here. People are complex and can sometimes be unpredictable. They bring with them to every situation some sort of baggage.
That includes witnesses. Some witnesses said they saw him surrendering and that he shouldn’t have been shot. Yet other witnesses said he was charging the police officer and Wilson should have feared for his life. I’m sure not one of those witnesses felt that they were lying. Their truths were reality for them, colored by the baggage they bring with them every day of their lives.
There is certainly an abundance of compassion for Michael Brown, and surprisingly little for Darren Wilson. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in either man’s shoes, to be honest. No one but Michael Brown and Darren Wilson know the truth about what went on. And even then there could be two versions of that truth. The entire incident took ninety seconds. Those ninety seconds have defined both men’s lives. Ninety swiftly fleeting seconds.
What it all boils down to, for me, is this:
It is beyond sad that young people are literally being shot in the streets in this country, whether by their own poor choices or nefarious means. There is nothing that pulls at my heartstrings more than the tears of a mother who has just lost her baby to violence. Kids make poor choices all the time. It’s in their nature. As a mother, I think of the poor choices my kids have made and hope and pray that they never make one that costs them their lives. As the mother of white children, I am also keenly aware of the privilege they have that other mothers’ babies don’t.
It is part of the job description that officers have to answer for the shots they fire, and, of the officers I’ve known (several family members and friends), not one of them relishes the idea of drawing their weapons, much less having to fire them. Ninety seconds feel like forever when you just sit and watch the time go by, but when something heated is happening it feels like the blink of an eye. That’s a responsibility many, if not most, of us wouldn’t desire having. I wouldn’t want to make any decision in my life in that amount of time unless it was of the most frivolous quality. Ninety seconds are not enough time to make a literal life and death choice. Darren Wilson deserves a little compassion, too, even if only because he has one of the toughest jobs in the world. Because it is in public service, he will forever be criticized, good or bad, for that tragic ninety seconds.
Rioting and looting are not a salve for the wounds of Ferguson, Missouri. I understand the need to do something. I understand the pain and outrage. I empathize with those feelings. My thoughts are, though, that if you want love and compassion and non-violence to breed in your community, looting and rioting is a most circuitous route to that ever happening.
For Michael Brown’s family, I offer condolences.
For Darren Wilson, I offer compassion.
For Ferguson, Missouri, I offer the hope that your city will heal in time.
For everyone, I hope we learn the power of love over hate. It’s all that we have to cling to, to make the changes our world needs.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.