Not About Ferguson

This is not about Ferguson. I really don’t know about Ferguson. I didn’t hear the 70 hours of testimony from 60 witnesses. I didn’t even watch the news as much as I should have. I know that Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown. I know that racial inequities and injustices persist in America, that law enforcement has partly created its own problems in minority communities, that these things can and should be addressed in public policy, that composite statistics can help steer that policy, but as a general rule I’m reluctant to use an individual criminal case as a venue to redress social problems. I have friends both liberal and conservative who seem more eager than I am to take sides up front based on preconceived notions about race relations. But even if those preconceived notions are correct, not every white cop is a racist and not every young black man is a thug. With individual lives at stake, specific cases should not be prejudged on political grounds. At least that seems a good general rule.

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5 thoughts on “Not About Ferguson

  1. Gary,
    I agree with your comments. Unless you sat through the testimony etc, you are simply mouthing biased opinions of others. It is the reason a court of appeal does not second guess the credibility determinations of the trail judge or jury. But I think we can use Ferguson to raise larger issues that trouble me about where we are as a society. There are many ways to approach this issue but one that currently resonates with me is as follows: Bukowski wrote that the ‘mass man’s art is hatred.’ I think that Karl Rove and his minions have successfully tapped into this unfortunate vein. They have discovered that mankind needs a negative other and will willingly embrace it when offered. In order to get political gain they have sacrificed civility and humanity. This has become a political strategy (just watch any ads for political candidates these days) but has also polluted other aspects of life, giving people the license to openly hate where they would normally shy away from expressing such sentiments out of fear of being chastised. Most ‘hatred’ is merely projection. In order to hate how little must a person think of themselves? In addition to this you have active attempts to rewrite history. Witness the reaction Mary Landrieu got when she stated the obvious that blacks and women have had a tough time in the south over the years. And this silliness, that such a statement is offensive as many Republicans cried, helps the mass man feel better about his hatred. It puts it in finer raiment. When you combine this embrace of the negative other offered with the rampant anti-intellectualism in America, you get where we find ourselves now. MTT

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    • Thanks, Mike, I agree. In the larger public sphere, I’d give Rush Limbaugh some of the credit you give to Karl Rove, as in my opinion he masterfully created the paradigm of today’s political discourse — that if someone disagrees with us politically, we are morally obligated to reject everything about them and to hate them with an inflexible, road raging hatred. Nearly all of talk radio and many Fox pundits have drawn from this model, and it has sadly become internalized for many, as witnessed by the tenor of today’s family and water cooler “discussions” about politics.

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  2. So what does this say about the age old argument about whether man is born good, born bad or is tabula rasa if we are so easily swayed to hatred? Why must people have a negative other? This will sound elitist but, as a general rule, these xenophobic and hateful approaches are used as a means to define oneself when there is little else to grasp in self definition. That is you define yourself by what you are not (vis a vis the negative other) and you define yourself by how being against the negative other puts you in a recognizable “group”. The group gives the individual some sense of transcendence over the daily meaninglessness of life. The group can be religious, nationalist, political, etc. (Hence the brilliance of the simplicity of the lyrics to Lennon’s “Imagine”) The less educated the more likely you need to be in that “group” in order to find transcendence. MTT

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    • Yes, I suppose all of those categories — nationalism, religion, political grouping — can work as opiate for the masses or kindling for the masses — in either case, your fundamental explanation seems a good one.

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  3. Mike’s last sentence concerning “The less educated” begs the question as to the reason(s) why many state legislatures (predominantly GOP, as it happens) are drastically cutting state funding of public education. The Kansas legislature was sued for allocating less than the legally-required minimum funding for the state’s public schools. On a related subject, the platform appearing on the Texas GOP’s website contained a plank which specifically denounced the teaching of critical thought (this plank was later removed when Brian Begala held it up to ridicule in a Newsweek column).

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