Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ferguson - A Human Tragedy In Three And A Half Minutes


What life altering experiences can a person have in three and a half minutes?  Can you start and run a successful business?  Can you fall in love?  Write the Great American Novel?  Invent the next killer app or miracle cure?

No, great achievement requires time.  However, lives can be destroyed in a matter of moments.  In the space of few minutes you can say those ill chosen words that cost you a career or the love of your life.  In the space of a few seconds you can push the plunger on a syringe or swallow the pills that obliterate life.  A moment’s carelessness can blow up a factory or kill dozens on the highway.

Such is the case in Ferguson, Missouri.  Within the space of three and a half minutes, two young men made tragic decisions and took irreversible actions that cost the life of one, tore apart a community, polarized an already overstressed nation and will have untold but severe and lifelong consequences for the other.

I use the words “young men” as a formality.  From my venerable perspective they are still both boys, younger than my eldest son and still finding their footing in an uncertain world.  This makes it all the more sad thinking that either could be my kids.  Like my sons, they are neither demons nor saints. Both are kids given to impulsivity and rashness and prone to ill judgment in moments of pressure.

Michael Brown was slated to begin college the week following his death and had no prior criminal record.  If he were my son, I would be proud that he made it through high school with a clean record and was on track to productive future.

Brown’s first life altering decision of the day was made about ten minutes before he was shot.  What was he thinking when he robbed a local C-Store of cheap cigars in broad daylight and in front of video surveillance cameras?  To make matters worse he assaulted the store clerk on the way out.  Brown was a big guy in a small town.  I’ll bet everyone knew him.  He couldn’t hide.

In a moment’s time Brown made two poor choices that may have postponed or even preempted his college education and cost him any opportunity for a “good” job later in life.

Police Officer Darren Wilson is a 28 year old with a nice job, one that typically comes with decent pay, high job security and good benefits.  He was a lot better off than many other people his age.  I think most of us would be proud to have him as a son, too.

Then in less than four minutes things went horribly awry.  What we know is that Brown and his friend were walking in the middle street when Officer Wilson asked them to move to the curb.  Somewhere between the time of that request and the death of Michael Brown, that is three minutes, a lot of unfortunate decisions were made under duress.  Investigators and grand jurors will sort the sequence of events out.

Perhaps Brown was shaken up by what he just did at the store moments ago and then panicked at sudden appearance of a cop.  Perhaps Officer Dawson was in over his head in a one on one confrontation without backup.  Perhaps Dawson simply acted in an instinctive human mode of self preservation when confronted with an angry NFL sized adversary.

Maybe two young guys in a tense situation misread each other and back up came a minute too late to mediate.

I do not believe that Michael Brown got up that morning intending to embark on a minor crime spree.  Nor do I believe that Officer Dawson woke up that day intending to kill anyone.  And I do not believe for one minute that race played a role in a role in this simple tragedy of human error. 

The sad fact; however, is that human error and stupidity are so mundane so as not to justify Federal intervention.  Simple human error and stupidity do not whip up the base.  Human error and stupidity cannot be legislated away.

Therefore for the media and political class, simple but tragic human error and stupidity are not acceptable explanations.  They need an exploitable platform to advance their agendas and power bases.  What they are making of this tragedy is far worse than human error and stupidity.  It is cold, calculated and cynical.  It tears at the fabric of community and sets people against one another.

When America needs prayer, forgiveness, dialog and healing, the exploiter class leads us instead to heightened hatred, mistrust and divisiveness. 

To err is human.  To forgive divine.  To capitalize on tragedy is nothing short of diabolical.

 

Related Posts:

Why Did You Make Sister Hit You?”
Who You Gonna Call?

Cliven Bundy – Sorting Through The Rubble


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