Thursday, November 27, 2014

Michael Brown and Ferguson

I am not convinced that Michael Brown is a martyr. 

This in spite of the fact that I can't pick up a newspaper, turn on a radio or watch a TV and consume a story about him which doesn't contain the phrase “unarmed black teenager.”

Michael Brown was a teenage male. Not only that, he was a big teenaged male. And as teenagers are wont to do, he was capable of acting colossally stupid.

One day, Brown got it into his head that it would be a good idea if he went to the local convenience store and stole stuff. And when a clerk intervened, it would be an even better idea if he used his enormous height and weight advantage to push the clerk around.

Upon watching the video from the store's security camera, it is clear that Brown was feeling his oats, and received a powerful sense of superiority by exploiting his size advantage. It isn't very difficult to imagine him carrying this swollen sense of self into the surrounding neighborhood, more than willing to challenge anything and anyone who got in his way.

Yes, this is supposition. I was not there. But I was once a teenaged male, and am familiar with the heightened sense of invincibility they can entertain.

Again provoked by some combination of an accomplice, music and/or an intoxicant (his autopsy revealed the presence of marijuana), he eventually decided to challenge a cop. Which also isn't a very good idea—especially if you have something to hide.

(Not to be flippant, but this is precisely why there are laws in the U.S. Constitution which forbid teenagers from holding elected office.)

What happened next isn't clear. But at some point in their confrontation, a police officer named Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown six times.

Yes, you could argue that being young and stupid isn't a crime. And you'd be right. 

Except when it becomes a matter of life and death, which it would be if it is ever proven conclusively that Brown attempted to grab Wilson's gun. And given his previous actions, such an act isn't entirely inconceivable, is it? 

In my humble opinion, Michael Brown was spoiling for a fight.

Let me say that I don't have unconditional love for police. As in any other profession, there are good cops and there are bad cops. And I have experience with both. And with the unforgettable sense of betrayal you receive when confronted with the latter.

But I harbor no love (much less unconditional) for people who feel entitled to go on rampages, either. I don't care what Brown stole or how old he was. To put it nicely, on this day he was acting like a shit.

One of the immutable tragedies of life is that one error in judgment, one mistake can be all it takes to bring said life to an end.

In a perfect world Michael Brown never would have felt the need to push the boundaries of socially acceptable behavior to fulfill a momentary need to fuck with people. And officer Wilson would have pulled a taser on Brown instead of a gun.

But the world is so very far from perfect, isn't it?

I'm convinced this was the tragic confluence of a young kid engorged with feelings of invincibility and a cop not entirely patient or understanding of young black men.

There is much to regret.

I'm dismayed by officer Wilson's statement that his conscience is clear. That he has no regrets. I am also dismayed by the black community's candidate for martyrdom, given the marginal behavior exhibited by Michael Brown in the hours before his death.

Having gained at least a partial understanding of what discrimination is like via long-term unemployment, I understand only too well the helplessness and rage that well-up when repeatedly confronted with blind, inaccurate, knee-jerk characterizations.

But burning and looting your neighborhood isn't the answer.

My hope on this Thanksgiving is that one day we will find what is.

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