I have resisted writing anything about Ferguson, etc. for the longest time, in part because the picture was still evolving , but also a belief , more of a hope, that rational minds would prevail and the process of the Law would be respected. Now, with the inclusion of a lie as one of the "quotes" of 2014, it is clear that my hopes were in vain. The truth has now become irrelevant, an easily ignorable impediment to a hot story.
A mob can be manipulated by demagogues, or by race baiters or those set on a determined agenda irrespective of the truth. We saw such manipulations of facts in the recent events in Ferguson. Falsehoods were told, then repeated with such a regularity that they became assumed facts. But no matter how forcefully repeated, lies do not become facts. As once said by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "Everyone may be entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts."
Of all the lies surrounding the death of Michael Brown - he was a gentle Giant from the loving, supportive family, the ‘college’ bound young man, the hysteria that race played any role in the shooting - by far the worst is the myth of "Hands up, Don’t Shoot."
The bald assertation that Michael Brown was in the process of surrendering, only to be gunned down by a racist cop makes for a compelling myth, but it is just that, debunked by the weight of credible evidence. Credible evidence defined as that supported by impartial forensics overwhelmingly shows that the aggressive, impulsive young Mr. Brown was not executed for the crime of being Black. No amount of chanting can make it so. But how did such a blatant lie achieve the stature of a cult symbol? The answer lies in the negligence of a biased media, determined to report a pre-determined story, the facts be damned.
"Hands up, don’t shoot" was largely the creation of Dorian Johnson, the companion of Michael Brown. His version of what happened on August the 9 was repeated on twitter and other social media as the truth. Not one ounce of skepticism was brought to bear in repeating the mantra; not one element of journalistic integrity was used to even partially check the tale, nor the teller; not one aspect of common sense was used to even remotely scrutinize the witness upon whom the credibility of the story rests. The Grand Jury did all these things, and found it wanting, found it unworthy of belief. If the story WAS credible, an indictment of Officer Wilson for murder would have been presented. No other conclusion can be rationally drawn.
Items on twitter are not facts; statements of triple hearsay are not facts; Jon Stewart does not deal in facts. Yet despite all negatives, the story grew and grew, fed by the fuel of the race card, vigorously played at every opportunity. Those who could have calmed down the mob with reason ignited passions with a dishonest and racially charged diatribe, including the Agitator in Chief from Washington. Instead of appealing for calm, peaceful actions that respect the Grand Jury process, President Obama stoked the flames by casting an inaccurate haze over Ferguson by again bringing up the issue of race. No matter how much some may desire it to be, the simple truth is that Michael Brown’s death had nothing to do with his race. Like far too many young Black men, Mr. Brown made a series of impulsive mistakes which ultimately proved to be fatal. His death was indeed a tragedy; but driven by selfish greed, and the foul dust that descended into North St Louis County turned it into a violent catastrophe. For publicity, for money, for ratings, for political gains, for no other reason than the spread of anarchy.
Lessons should be learned from the ashes in Ferguson. But the focus cannot be unilaterally on Police reform. Yes, in towns like Ferguson, the police are seen as an occupying force. They work but do not live in the towns they patrol. Answer: re-establish the residency requirement. When you see the Police as a part of your community, you see them as humans, citizens, neighbors, and therefore far less likely to be disconnected. But an examination needs to take place of the social environment that would motivate a young man like Michael Brown to be so recklessly disrespectful, with the inevitable consequences. It also needs desperate repair.
Shakespeare wrote that "The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves." We need to look to see why more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, a perception still exists that social mobility is artificially restricted by race. It is a lame and unworthy excuse. Perhaps the solution lies within, in an examination of a fractured family structure that leads to such heartbreaking results.
The way forward is hard, as it may well expose unpleasant truths now conveniently hidden. The way of truth demands the courage to act. A future of coexisting peace demands such. Be not afraid.