Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On Ferguson

I'm back home in Richboro for the holiday after being in Ferguson for three days. I don't want to debate the issue too much on Facebook because I've learned that never ends well. But as far as what I saw and experienced:

You have all seen the bad things. I have posted about the bad things on Facebook and Twitter as they were happening. And the bad things were very bad, and very scary. I felt the heat from the burning buildings on my face. I tasted tear gas three times. I heard a mother screaming for someone to help her wheezing son when a coffeehouse full of people doing nothing more extraordinary than what you'd see at any Starbucks was suddenly filled with tear gas. I have learned that gunshots and smoke bombs make disconcertingly similar sounds when they are fired 15 feet away from you. At you.

But Ferguson is not a war zone. For the most part, just a block away from any of the fires you saw on TV is a side street with houses with picket fences or big backyards where people were sitting in their living room watching the news. It is a city of 20,000 people, the overwhelming majority of whom just want to live in a community where everyone lives in peace and mutual respect.

I saw extreme acts of anger. And I saw extreme acts of baseless, reactive fear. But I also saw extreme acts of kindness, courage, and hopeful determination to commit to the long-term effort to make a better future. Because as the protests and the reactions across the country show, there is a fundamental problem that goes beyond Ferguson. Until we bridge the gap in trust between those who enforce the law and the people they are sworn to serve and protect, we cannot move forward. I realize that is not an original assertion. But that does not make it feel any less true. However, rather than being discouraged by what I saw in Ferguson, I believe that the will to make that change is stronger and more durable than any news cycle, and I am actually encouraged by my experience there that such change is possible.

Our team was in the coffeehouse that was gassed. The coffeehouse was a designated safe space for activists, protesters, or really anyone who wanted to come in at any time of the night and catch their breath both literally and figuratively from the tension in the world outside. The following evening, when we were not there, the coffeehouse was gassed again. And then the events in the clip below happened. We've seen the bad things. We have not seen enough of the good things. Because good things don't make for good TV. Or so we're led to believe. So here is a clip of one of the good things, that does, in fact, make for good viewing. Yes, the people in this clip are clearly on one side of the issue, but I was moved by their spirit of unity and optimism. Maybe you will be too. Maybe not. But I feel like it needs to be seen.

We can all do better. We can all be better. And I believe we will. Starting with swearing off Facebook-fighting about this and actually getting off our butts and doing something more positive than shouting each other down online.

Thanks for listening. Okay, here's the video for real this time: