Monday, August 25, 2014

Missed Opportunities in Ferguson

As a hobby, my dad writes two articles a month for a city newspaper. He is featured in the opinion column and even has a front row spot on their webpage (sidenote, my dad is always laughing and goofing around, his profile pic is hilarious to me, so serious!). Every now and then he writes one that just blows me out of the water. He has a way of telling a story with a message, filled with good thoughts and humor. His most recent on Ferguson touched my heart, I felt inclined to share it with Southern Hope readers. 
     I’m writing this from a safe, comfortable porch, surrounded by glass with a view of a calm neighborhood near the beautiful Gulf of Mexico and if I could, I would get down on my knees (they’re worn out) and thank God for a safe, calm place in which to work. I would thank Him for two parents who had opportunity and instilled in me the will/ability to become educated, think for myself, lead more than follow, guide others in thought, work with wonderful people and enjoy family. I could no more let someone with a bullhorn tell me what to do than spit across the Gulf. But it’s amazing to me how many of us are forced to do just that. I have a moral compass, instilled in me by a father who worked long hours as a policeman and still found the time to let me know I was loved and watched talked to and laughed with and watched again. And, if I listen carefully, which sometimes I do not, the compass he gave me will keep me on a true north path. He was the most ethical non-church goer I’ve ever known and the “still small voice” I hear comes as much from him as it does from God, which is important to know. But I digress. 

     What we see in Ferguson, is a missed opportunity by people with no leadership. They are disenfranchised, leaderless, disillusioned, confused and very frustrated people with no hope. They get up every morning of every day in the same state of hopelessness and when something like the Brown shooting gives them the ability to be heard, they take it. They know that when all is said and done, when the police leave, when the trial is over (if there is one) when the positive remarks of Captain Johnson of the State Police are no longer there to be heard they will once again be in the same economic and educational state they were in before it all began.  Their lives are filled with fear of what tomorrow will bring, an uncertainty about their future and that of their children, a “heat” that only living in their environment can bring in August and constant worry about loved ones unprotected. They follow anyone with a bullhorn, anyone with an idea for a way out, temporary though that may be, it is a respite from what tomorrow must bring. The knowing that tomorrow will be as today is, filled with despair. 

     They look for identity, a way to be different among the crowd they secretly cannot trust but must live within for there is no way out. A tattoo, a symbol, a way of dressing, anything to set them apart to say, this is who I am, I am different and not the way you see me. The mothers weep for their children, worry, anguish fills their lives as they see that generation after generation has seen no way out. Leadership comes but it’s not enough. Churches are filled but somehow the message is missed and what is that message?  Self-reliance is preached but somehow there is no help from an absent father who is seeking his own respite. And so it goes until the next incident when there is opportunity to once again say, “Here we are, we need help but from where will it come?” There is no MLK and there does not appear to be one on the horizon, only opportunists.  And so, in mass, they are confronted with police who have no choice but to follow orders to restore order and so-called leaders who feed them to the wolves for ratings and personal gain. 

     The shooting of Michael Brown, justified or not, was an opportunity for voices to be heard, not sirens, fears to be assuaged, not increased,  hate to be starved, not fed , grievances to be addressed not addresses looted. The slogan, “No justice no peace” is as much a cry for attention for the young black male’s plight as anything else. It says, “You leave us no choice, no way out and we want to be heard.”  The most important single element in the life of a young male, black or white is the father. We thought we were smart when we said, “It’s not the quantity of time we spend with our sons, it’s the quality”. Remember that little tidbit of B.S.? Do not be deceived. A son needs to know dad is somewhere in the house every time he comes home, regardless of the hour, to put that still small voice in a young man who is unaware that, as President Obama told the Iraq’s, “The wolf is at the door.” Perhaps he should have saved that analogy for Ferguson.