Every one of us feels anger when society lets us down. The Michael Brown case was one such incident. We all know that not one rational minded human being on God’s green earth believes that Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson should have been pardoned for the death of Michael Brown. Society let us down. That’s a fact. But what do we do about it.
Rioting and looting is an understandable but terribly wrong answer. It many ways it’s hard to avoid it. We all feel disgusted and outraged. We are all extremely angry over the verdict. But to base your actions on anger is always wrong. When we base our actions on anger we simply cause more suffering.
Rioting causes harm to more innocent people. Stores are smashed. Who owns them? Not the people responsible for making the decision in the Michael Brown case. No. Innocents are harmed. Innocent people like you and me.
Do the people in power genuinely care are the looting? Properly not. It doesn’t affect them, at least not directly. The powers that be will pay for a clean-up of Ferguson and they won’t so much as get their hands dirty. The only people who are harmed are more innocent people, innocent people who could just as easily have been Michael Brown’s own family.
Rioting achieves nothing. It doesn’t affect the powers that be. It doesn’t genuinely motivate or force them to change anything. So what should we do? How can we possibly achieve what we want? And what we want, let’s remind ourselves, is justice.
What we want is:
- The knowledge that in future the law will serve us and protect the innocent
- Michael Brown’s memory to be honoured
- Michael Brown’s family to feel loved and supported.
Two of those things can be readily achieved. We can readily honour Michael Brown’s family, and we can make his family feel loved and supported. That takes love and kindness. It takes strangers approaching Michael Brown’s family and saying “We are with you. You have our love. You have our support.” It takes acts of kindness. That will make Michael Brown’s family feel supported and loved.
And what about the memory of Michael Brown? Surely the memory of an individual should be based on the individual themselves. So, who was Michael Brown?
Michael Brown was a young man who was passionate about alternative education (according to Wikipedia). Brown graduated from Normandy High School in St. Louis eight days before his death, completing an alternative education program. We know then that this was a passion of his. To honour his memory we could perhaps donate to alternative education programs. Or perhaps we could demand that new alternative education schools be set up in his memory. Ultimately, what matters is that something is that society honours the memory of Michael Brown by acting in some way that would have meant something to him as an individual.
Our third demand, the demand that the law protect us and that society be unprejudiced, is harder to achieve.
The problem is this: the powers that be don’t value our protection because they don’t know what it’s like to be us. The best form of democracy is one in which those in power reflect the average citizen of their province. That means paying those in power the same as we are paid, having them live where we live, having them know what it’s like to be us. Until the people in power know what it’s like to be us, they will never act in service of us.
Thomas Jefferson said: “That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.”
Take a moment to consider those words: “That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.”
The Michael Brown case cuts to the very core of society and democracy. Are we being served? Is society protecting us? Is law meeting its promise? Is it a time for change?
Ultimately, what matters is Michael Brown and his family. Looting surely doesn’t honour Michael Brown’s memory, nor does it make his family feel loved and supported. We should be focusing on providing support to Michael’s Brown’s family. That’s where our efforts should lie.