Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wisdom for Ferguson, Missouri, in Light of Tragedy

Desire without knowledge is not good—
   how much more will hasty feet miss the way! 
 ~Proverbs 19:2


Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, touch everyone listening to news about the day that one policeman attempted to stop a young man in the street. Resistance followed, then physical engagement, and finally a tragic end. A young man died.

Blessed is any young man with loving parents, and that appears to be the case in this instance, for the one who died. 

It may also be the case for the young policeman who shot him six times. It may be the case for many protesters who took to the streets fearing, it appears, that justice would not be done unless follow-up action occurred, unless they spoke out. It may be the case for some who took advantage of the ensuing confusion and looted innocent citizens' shops. It may be the case for law enforcement personnel and elected officials, as well as local clergy.  

I remember a loving mother I met at a conference once. She asked me to pray for her son. I agreed, and asked a few questions for some details. Her goal was that her son be released from prison, where he was serving time for DUI, driving under the influence. In his case, alcohol was the snake coiled around his neck. 

The more I learned told me that this young man had had other DUI arrests, with lighter punishments. I told the mother I would definitely pray for her son, but I would not pray for him to be released early from his DUI sentence. 

"Maybe prison this time will help wake him up to what he is doing and how dangerous it is," I said. "It is very possible that he could kill someone by driving drunk, and then he would face murder charges." 

The mother did not argue. I thought that she was wise to reflect how easily her son's reckless behavior could take a life, could kill one or more irreplaceable loved ones of other families.     

Wisdom, I believe, is needed by every person that is part of what is happening in Ferguson in these days, from policing officials to elected officials, to appointed officials, to citizens and outsiders.

I feel the range of emotions one can have upon hearing another news story of continuing distrust of such magnitude, being played out on a town's streets and televised widely. Last night, a young man blatantly shot into an apartment building, and I heard that no one was hit by his bullets. I cringed at the fate he escaped, that of a charge of murder; many young children, even infants, have been killed by such random shots fired in haste. I cringed even more, and breathed a prayer of thanks as well, for the spared lives behind those apartment windows.  

Many people outside Ferguson are praying for the city, for everyone involved, so that justice may be done in the courts, based on the facts being assembled now. How many will cooperate, though, with prayers for justice within the law and with peace? It appears that a dangerous few do not relish calm, being in the throes of angry excitement that is likely, in some cases, to be fed by cameras and microphones. Many decisions face everyone on the ground about just, legal, and peaceful processes going forward after the death of a young man so recently at the age of majority, of adulthood.

A certain kind of love can lead attitudes of patience and perseverance in such tragedies. Law enforcers love to know who fired shots and that they have not fled. The judicial system loves legal process

The laws by which a community lives are intended to operate fairly, although sometimes that fails. The wisdom to keep trying to get it right is, I think, what the protesters now seek. I believe it is what the officials, local clergy, and others want, what we observers hope for. May it happen without further bloodshed. 

Watching a few minutes of Fox News near midnight last night, I heard reporter Shepard Smith question at what point the press can add to a tense situation. One of his colleagues, Steve Harrigan, had estimated there were 100 protesters in the streets, 200 reporters, and 500 police officers. Such a time calls for consideration of a reporting pool, to lower the numbers of cameras and journalistic questions, reliving events and focusing on emotions. It is easier to contribute to  peace with one's mouth closed long enough to think and apply serious, unselfish reasoning. 

That would be a wise change by the press, I opine.  

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