People are asking me to write about Ferguson and give my reaction to what is going on there. I've been at a loss for words and instead found lines from the Prayer of St. Francis on repeat in the recesses of my brain.
Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love with all my soul.
This is a dangerous time. I think there is a reason why book and film series like the Hunger Games and Divergent are penetrating our consciousness. They touch anxieties we all seem to share to a degree, anxieties about where this all leads.
Our systems aren't working. We seem unable to resolve major, complex issues even where there is fairly broad consensus among the general population. The reasons for the dysfunction seem to have more to do with representing the interests of the elite and well-connected as opposed to any deep, philosophical struggle. At the highest levels, our political discourse is juvenile, treating an educated population like mindless idiots waiting to be manipulated. Decline has been ongoing for decades, yet our propaganda insists that, because we now have iphones and Twitter, we're the greatest civilization to have ever existed.
And we experience ongoing, low-level, systematic injustice continuously. In the world I work in, we get public hearings and visioning sessions -- all the well-established process -- that is designed, more than anything else, to dissipate opposition. We can't find $500 to paint a crosswalk, but $9.2 million for a stroad appears regularly every couple of years. We say we are for small businesses and local entrepreneurs, yet we have created a system that disproportionately taxes them, regulates them and inflates their costs, all while constructing a development pattern that gives every advantage to their corporate competitor. We raise the minimum wage as a comforting way to ignore the fact that we have turned large swaths of our people into interchangeable commodities.
Our monetary policy enriches the elites while the person struggling to save a little nest egg gets -- no exaggeration based on my last statement -- 0.01% interest on a regular savings account (that is 1/100 of a percent). This while they are still paying 14%+ on their credit card. We are all spied on, monitored and cataloged -- by the government and our private companies -- in a way the Stasi could have only dreamed of. We've gone from being a country so wary of the use of force that FBI agents were not allowed to carry weapons to one where local police officers are outfitted with combat gear and heavy weaponry.
Now, overlay the the injustice associated with racial issues -- which I do not claim an ability to speak of with any intimate knowledge -- and I'm just overwhelmed with a feeling of sadness.
This morning I was upstairs getting ready for the day when I heard my oldest daughter raise her voice in anger. I ignored it, but a couple of minutes later I heard her screaming and then the slamming of a door. I went down to see what was happening and my younger daughter was in her room crying and claiming that the older one had hurt her. When I went to speak with the older one, she got really mad and threw a tantrum typical of a ten year old. I'm pretty confident I can piece together what went down, even though I wasn't there.
I don't know what happened in the confrontation with Michael Brown. What seems to be clear is that the police confronted someone jaywalking (a crime I am proudly guilty of on a daily basis) in a place where walking in the street was a reasonable option. This led to an event where Michael Brown was shot and killed. Subsequent to that event, I watched a police department overreact in a way that should be frightening to any American. I don't know what happened in the confrontation with Michael Brown, but I'm sympathetic to anyone who is outraged by those facts alone.
And I also know that, whatever did happen, the injustices here are far greater and more complex and systematic than just this one incident.
The most interesting thing I've read on this was written by Patrick Kennedy in D Magazine. It is titled Shut 'em Down for Michael Brown. Patrick's writing is exceptional and his way of framing issues is one that should make him always near the top of your reading list.
Progress by its very nature requires disruption, first to our daily lives, then to your weekly episode of Dancing with the Stars, and finally to the systemic nature of the disenfranchisement.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a holiday whose name suggests a time for deep reflection. If you're struggling with all of this like me, the day couldn't come at a better time.