Ferguson, Continued

I think the thing I find most interesting about this is just watching how the racial attitudes I grew up surrounded by and the racial assumptions of the power structures in those places sound to outsiders.

In a way, the dynamic is very similar to how abusers talk about the people they abuse–there’s always a long list of wrong-doings, and, as we talked about, often those accusations are true. Brown appears to have robbed a convenience store. He had been smoking pot, apparently. Neither of those things being punishable by death.

And, for sure, being angry that a confrontation between the police and an unarmed kid lead to that kid’s death doesn’t justify a quasi-military invasion and occupation of your neighborhood.

But I grew up in towns where it was just assumed that black people, except the “good” ones, were more dangerous than white people (even the “trash”) and that they had to be constantly surveilled by the police if and when they were around because, well, “you know how they are.” And everyone nods along, with rare exceptions.

I can see this same attitude in the Ferguson and county police, who keep trying to trigger the “and everyone nods along” portion of the event. Everything they’ve released is about trying to show that Brown is not “one of the good ones,” and therefore, whatever happens to him, it’s not really important for “good” people to bother themselves with.

That they cannot force this dynamic to play out with this individual seems to have caused them to try to escalate things in Ferguson so that they can try to trigger it at a community level–these are all “bad” ones because they’re outside when they’re told not to be, because they don’t respect the authority of the police, etc.–so that they can be vindicated in their treatment of the community and therefore of Brown.

They are afraid, that much is obvious. And that makes me worried more people are going to end up dead by the time this is over.

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The Best Way Out is Always Through

I have been thinking to myself a lot “the way out is through,” and I got to wondering who said it originally. And there, in a pile of inspirational quotes, was “The best way out is always through” attributed to motherfucking Robert Frost.

If you know Robert Frost, you know why I say “motherfucking Robert Frost.”

Robert Frost is like king of the pithy quotes that, when taken out of context, seem, yes, inspirational and wise. You know Robert Frost only two lines at a time, you think Robert Frost is some sweet old New England farmer handing out gentle wisdom while leaning on his hoe, overlooking his lovingly tended garden.

“Oh, Mr. Frost, I seem to be tangled up in your blackberries, which also may be a metaphor for my life!”

“I see that, girl. But just keep coming toward the sound of my voice. ‘The best way out is always through.'”

“I’m free! Oh, thank you, thank you, Mr. Frost.”

“I don’t have time for gratitude. I have to help this person trying to make a big life decision decide which path in a metaphorical woods he should take.”

That’s never how a Robert Frost poem goes in real life, though. They’re always sad, someone is always missing a connection with another person or about to.

And thus it is with “A Servant to Servants.”

I’m still going to think of that phrase, but it feels maybe a lot more honest and a little less inspirational to know that the speaker of the poem feels rather ambiguous about it. As you do, when you’re thinking about your crazy uncle locked in a cage in the barn.

Could This Happen Here?

One of the things I find most disheartening about the Ferguson situation is that I see a bunch of folks asking if “this” could happen here.

None of them are talking about whether a cop could shoot a kid down in the street.

I guess we’re just all assuming that could happen. So, let’s jump to the worry about whether people’s rage/grief/fear here could spiral into this kind of chaos. A kind of chaos that might affect all of us.

But I wish we dwelled longer on how to train our cops to deescalate and how to demilitarize their presence.