It’s at times like this, on nights like this, your brain scrambles for some sense, tries to find some order, some belief, some kind of light. But it’s been such a hard week – one of the kindest, gentlest men who raised us all, despite his own pain, died – and tonight, thinking about why and god can we just go back in time so someone could help and instead, we have the photos and reports from Ferguson.
And then your heart just sinks. An Appleton police car drives by my house, as one does almost every night, and instead of feeling safe in this peaceful little town I feel afraid. I know some of the cops here, you know? And they’re nice guys. And I bet the guys in Ferguson are too, and yet look at what’s been happening there this week, what’s been happening all over the US this month – Mike Brown was the fourth unarmed black man killed in this country in the past month by police – and you wonder how any of this happens.
But you know how. I mean, I teach how. This is institutionalized racism. There’s no way around it. All of the reports of what happened the night Mike Brown got shot – even the “official” ones that don’t smell right – tell me there was something happening there, an abuse of power, a moment of hate and fear that became the death of this young man.
You watch the Anonymous video and it sends chills up your limbs. I agree with them. I am secretly happy someone is doing something, and wonder, too, what happened to the FOI Act, and why it doesn’t seem to work anymore. But Anonymous terrifies me, too. That’s a lot of power. An awful lot of power. And people who have and want and use that much power really worry me, no matter how much I agree with their politics.
So what do you do on a night like this one, when the clown who might have made some sense of the violence going on in Missouri is gone? What do you do when the smartest, most compassionate people are speechless, astonished by the brutality of it all? As my friend Loree Cook-Daniels asked: As human beings, do we want to pay and arm some people to kill other people? Do we have an answer to that that makes any sense? Because sadly, I think our answer is yes. It shouldn’t be.
I don’t know. I know it’s always darkest before the dawn, and that there have been times in recent history, in recent memory, that have felt something like this, when the world seems to have gone especially dim and humanity seems especially cruel. I know there have been nights like this before, weeks like it, and I know there will be again.
So all I can do is feel thankful I am not having gas canisters lobbed onto my front lawn, that I have the luxury of even thinking tonight in a way that no one in Ferguson really can right now. All of my privilege, all of my luck, all of my security is mine tonight no matter how scared of the world I might feel.
Tonight is a night, one of those nights, when the wolves feel like they’re at the door. And all I can do is make sure the doors are locked, read the news reports, look for some sense of shared confusion and hope from my friends, and at long last, listen. There’s this song, one of the prettiest songs I know, and I’m just going to keep singing it to myself tonight while the people of Ferguson and the people of Iraq try to stay alive.
Hang in there, folks.