To many, the “unthinkable” occurred in 2012 – President Barack Obama was re-elected. Despite cries that America would be ruined beyond repair, two things occurred:
1. The country, despite its many problems, is still here, intact and chugging along.
2. The president, unpopular as he may be, is also intact.
There were no assassination attempts, riots, or military coups. In fact, life has been pretty normal for most Americans. Just like always.
And given the recent Republican landslide, many Democrats are extremely distraught, yet they are protesting the GOP’s ideas politically – and peacefully.
Dealing with change in a tranquil manner proves just how amazing Americans really are. With all our bickering, it’s easy to forget that which makes us unique – our ability to accept, without reservation, the transition of power from one political party to the other, peacefully and honorably.
To be sure, we’ve endured our share of tragedies, from Lincoln to Kennedy, but through them all, the show still went on. America refused to allow such acts of evil to affect who we were, or destroy the system we fought so hard to attain. Our respect for the rule of law, and the order and stability it produces, has been a bedrock value for so long that it is often taken for granted.
But that seems to be changing.
And nowhere is that on display more than in Ferguson, Mo.
By now, we all know the storyline: Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year old black man, who had allegedly just committed a felony inside a convenience store, got into a physical confrontation with white police officer Darren Wilson. Wilson shot Brown multiple times, resulting in Brown’s death.
Riots ensued, with bedlam lasting for weeks. The situation became so untenable that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called in the National Guard to help quell the unrest.
Irrelevant to the rioters were those pesky things called facts, many of which weren’t known then, and remain undisclosed today.
To get to the bottom of what really happened, a grand jury has been investigating the case. After sifting through mounds of evidence, it is due to release its findings – namely, whether to charge Officer Wilson with a crime – at any moment.
In anticipation of problems, Nixon has mobilized not just thousands of police, but more significantly, the National Guard. And for that, he has been sharply criticized by, among others, Brown supporters and armchair analysts nowhere near Missouri. They contend that, by doing so, he is enflaming tensions and throwing fuel on the fire, which could actually incite violence.
That criticism is so misplaced, so devoid of common sense and logic, that it defies belief. Here’s a sobering look at a very tense situation:
1. First things first. Nixon’s media conference call on the security situation turned into a debacle when he couldn’t even articulate who would be in charge of the operation – the police (and if so, which force?), or the National Guard. Since that would be an obvious question, Nixon’s fumbling the answer didn’t help matters.
But looking foolish doesn’t make Nixon wrong. Mobilizing the Guard was the prudent thing to do.
2. Nixon has also declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the grand jury decision, and was right doing so. He deserves credit for being decisive even though he was boxed into a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation: if he didn’t act pre-emptively by mobilizing the National Guard and ordering a large police presence, and chaos ensued, he would have been demonized for being asleep at the switch while Ferguson burned. And, as we’ve seen, by acting proactively, he catches hell from the “offended” class who cry racism and accuse him of strong-arm tactics.
Given the threat to life and property, especially in view of Ferguson’s track record, it’s infinitely wiser to err on the side of caution.
3. Let’s be very clear: the government’s response is not directed at protesters, but those intent on violence. And they are completely different. People have the freedom to protest peacefully, no matter how ill-informed they may be. But those engaging in vandalism are simply using the situation as an excuse to loot and hoot, taking advantage of the chaos to break the law.
4. Here’s the elephant in the room: where are we going as a society when the National Guard and riot police need to be mobilized every time a case has a racial element (perceived or real) to it? Why are leaders of all races and both parties not condemning the violence (and ignorance) in stronger fashion? Why do we not call out the agitators – the ones with ulterior motives rooted in self-interest – who use inflammatory language and tactics to rile people up and ignite the powder keg? When are we going to stop cow-towing to political correctness and start leading based on facts, not color?
5. America’s justice system is certainly not perfect, but it is, and always has been, the best in the world. We must have faith that the grand jury will come to the correct conclusion, and that justice will be served. Wilson should not get railroaded because jurors fear riots if they clear him. Nor should Brown’s death be in vain, regardless of prior criminal acts, if excessive force was used.
America’s racial gulf widens when disingenuous leaders want it both ways: organizing protests and tacitly condoning violence when convenient (Ferguson, the Trayvon Martin case, the Los Angeles riots), but not when the circumstances don’t fit their agenda, such as when O.J. Simpson was acquitted. The result is more racial tension.
The result is that all blacks become guilty-by-association, and that is a tragedy, since it wipes out the tremendous work done by black pastors, civic leaders, and others to advance equality and keep the peace. The louder the obnoxious ones are (and the more media coverage they receive), the more overshadowed the genuine leaders become. That must change.
It is time that Americans – all Americans – remember who we are, and what makes us so special. We may not always agree with judicial decisions, and we should continue to fight for fairness, but we must hammer those who resort to intimidation, threats and violence every time they don’t like something.
That principle couldn’t be more black-and-white.
Threats Prevent True Justice