This is a major departure from the normal posting here on Little Nesting Doll. I try really hard to concentrate on positive things, to avoid discussing majorly polarizing topics, and I don’t usually comment on current events that don’t relate to my immediate family.
But. I am nothing if not opinionated, however carefully curated my opinions on here usually are. And this morning I find that I am talking to myself; I have all these sentences bouncing around inside my brain and the only way I’m going to get them to stop stumbling about and colliding with one another is to write them down.
I hate to add more noise, because goodness knows there are enough opinions on this incident floating around the internet. But I’m going to throw my two cents in anyway. That’s exactly what it’s worth, by the way. Here’s what I believe:
I have no idea what it’s like to be a black man (or woman) in the United States. I do absolutely believe, though, that black people are often treated unfairly. I think there are laws that discriminate, that racism still exists, and that getting ahead is often more difficult for black people. I think that same thing applies to ALL minorities. Gays. Women. Immigrants. The system as it exists sucks pretty badly in a lot of ways, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to respond with violence or disrespect.
Playing the victim does not help. Bemoaning the unfairness of life does not help. You were dealt a hard hand? Play better, work harder, and overcome the difficulties. Don’t let your challenges reduce you to whining. You are responsible, 100%, for your own actions. Every day.
Looting the convenience stores in your own neighborhood does not help your cause, it only reveals an absolute lack of understanding of what the problem actually IS. Every single person who reacted to the killing of a young black man with retaliatory violence made a choice not to do the right thing. Nothing justifies those acts.
And then you have the police, accused of brutality, racial profiling, and extreme violence. I am biased here, because I have many, many family members and friends who serve as police officers. However, I am not naive, and I absolutely know and agree that there are plenty of people in law enforcement who abuse their power. That is 100% true.
I also know, though, that the job of a police officer is difficult in ways I cannot fully comprehend. The fact is that cops are faced every hour of every day with the worst humanity has to offer; they are the ones who see the ugliest parts of society on a daily basis.
Some of the stories I’ve heard from family and friends who are police officers make me gasp in horror and cry in disgust. One of my good friends, at my comment that it must be so awful to be the officer on scene after a brutal car accident, remarked, “Do you know how many dead bodies I’ve seen? It almost doesn’t even register anymore.” It’s PTSD-inducing, but without the P-, because it’s their job, every day.
While there are definitely cops who overstep their authority, there are also more that don’t. The job of a police officer is to serve and protect. They maintain order in a chaotic world, they see shit I can’t even imagine, and they put their lives in danger to keep the rest of us safer. Basically, it’s a job that is more stressful than I can imagine with fewer rewards than are deserved. And certainly less respect than is warranted.
Did the officer who shot Michael Brown take it too far? Possibly.
Or maybe he thought his own life was truly in danger and reacted accordingly. I am far from the person to make that judgment.
Did law enforcement overreact to peaceful protests and use excessive force against innocent people? Possibly.
Or maybe those police officers felt their own lives were truly in danger from the handful of decidedly NON-peaceful participants in the protest and reacted accordingly. I don’t know and I can’t say one way or the other.
Are there cops who abuse their power? Yup. Does that give an entire community the right to explode in violence and insanity? Nope.
Is life harder in this country for minorities? Yup. Does that give minorities free reign to play the victim, to justify violent actions with excuses of hardship, or to disrespect authority figures because they represent oppression? Nope.
I wish the world were a more fair place, but it’s not. All we can do, as individuals, is make choices every single day to work on making things better. We can treat people as we would want to be treated, in each and every interaction we have with each and every other person we meet, all day, every day. We can take personal responsibility for our own actions and stop blaming others for our own bad behavior. When we act like assholes, and we all do it, we need to apologize and do everything we can to rectify the situation. This is kindergarten shit, people.
It is sad that a potentially innocent young man was killed by a police officer. It is sad that that police officer’s life may have been threatened and now he is being forced to defend his decision to defend himself. It is sad that black people (and women, and gays, and immigrants, and many other minority groups) in this country face more challenges to get ahead. It is sad that when faced with the choice to work harder and do better or complain about disparity or injustice, many people choose to do the latter. It is sad that the response to Michael Brown’s death was violence and destruction. It is sad that there are authority figures who abuse their power. It is sad that police officers are faced with death and pain and drugs and hopelessness every day and are still not given the respect they deserve.
But mostly, it is sad that in this day and age, in a supposedly great country, we are still faced with racism, hatred, disrespect, violence, inequality, and extremism.
I have no solution, other than to take responsibility for MY own actions and to make sure I choose to do the right thing, even when it’s hard. And I will sit here, hoping others will do the same.