Friday, November 28, 2014

Lessons from the Ferguson Fiasco

"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." - James 3:17 (NIV)

- By: Larry Walker II -

It was back in the late 90's when a good friend of mine, an old Air Force veteran named Dan, relayed to me that he had recently killed a young Black male at a bus stop. When I first heard this I was shocked and in disbelief. Old Dan must have been close to 70 years old at the time, his body riddled with cancer, brain tumors, and other serious ailments, worn-down by years of battling with the disease of alcoholism. To me, he didn't appear capable of killing anyone. I had talked with him every day since the incident, but he didn't bother to mention a word about it for more than a week.

Dan was a Russian immigrant, a tough old bird, and a proud veteran. Yet his physical ailments eventually got the best of him. He passed away just a few months after the incident; God rest his soul. He spent the last day of his life sober, and doing the same as he had on the day he took that young man’s life, helping young folks recover from their struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction. Here's the story he told me.

He had just gotten off of work and walked to the bus stop to make his way home. It was raining that day, so he was carrying an umbrella. As he sat there, smoking a cigarette while waiting on the bus, a car full of young Black males crept by slowly on the opposite side of the street, its occupants staring him down. Suddenly, one guy shouted out, "What you looking at cracker?" Dan tried to ignore them, but his heart began to race due to the threatening tone.

Then the predictable happened, his worst nightmare. The car made a U-turn, and slowly pulled up, parking just a few yards away. Suddenly, a young man darted out of the vehicle and began walking directly towards him, one hand concealed under his coat. Again he shouted out, "I said, what the eff you looking at cracker?" Dan replied, "I'm not looking at anything, just waiting on the bus." The young man looked around, and then sped up his approach, his hand yet concealed.

When he got within a couple of feet, that's when my friend reacted. He took the only weapon at his disposal, his trusty umbrella, and lunged at the perpetrator, thrusting it straightway through his abdomen, a fatal blow, killing him instantly. The car sped off. The police arrived within minutes, and determined that the deceased indeed had a concealed firearm under his coat and had intended to do my friend harm. The cops believed Dan's story and he wasn't charged with any crime. It was clearly a case of self-defense. There was no public outcry. Not even a story on the evening news. It was just one of those senseless deaths that occur nearly every day across this nation.

Dan-o didn't want to mention it to me, because he thought I would be upset over a White man taking the life of a Black youth, but I reassured my friend that he had done right. I couldn't care less whether the perpetrator was Black, White, Brown, Red or Yellow; he had no right to threaten my friend’s life. I was more than happy that Dan had survived. Now let's turn to Ferguson, Missouri.

Lessons from Ferguson

I don't know any of the parties involved in the Ferguson Fiasco. I've been to St. Louis, where I recall being warned not to venture into certain parts of town alone, but I’ve never been to Ferguson, and don't think I'll ever visit. The point of this post is not to pass judgment, but to glean whatever lessons we may from the tragic events surrounding the death of Michael Brown. My hope is to aid in preventing the next senseless death of perhaps one young man or woman, no matter their race.

I stand firmly against police brutality, having been a victim in the past, and I’m not afraid to call them out on it. My stomach turns every time I hear about an unjust killing, whether committed by police officers, the military or anyone else. However, at the same time, I am keenly aware that not a day passes in America without some young thug robbing, beating, kidnapping, or taking the life of an innocent victim. Sometimes they get away with it for a space, but eventually, thanks to the police, they get caught. Other times they pick on the wrong person, like old Dan, and wind up severely injured or dead.

In no way am I implying that the police are always right. Far too often they use unnecessary force, and too often they unjustly injure or take the life of an innocent victim, who is merely attempting to comply. However, there is a reason we have police officers, and there is a reason they carry firearms. With this in mind, what lessons can we learn from the Ferguson Fiasco?

Mike Brown, the young man killed by a police officer in Ferguson, committed a crime when he shoplifted a box of cigars from a local merchant, and then strong-armed one of its employees on his way out the door. The incident was caught on tape, so there’s no way it can be disputed. Now here's a newsflash for the rabble-rousers: Stealing is wrong. That's the Eighth Commandment for you simpletons. "Thou shalt not steal." It’s also a Class A Misdemeanor in Missouri, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Assaulting a store clerk, or anyone else, is also a crime, punishable by anywhere from 15 days in jail and a $500 fine, up to 15 years in prison.

If you’re not aware that theft and assault are wrong, then you haven't been brought up right. If Mike Brown wasn't aware, then we can blame only one of two parties. His ignorance was either due to bad parenting, or his failure to obey the Fifth Commandment, which teaches us to honor our mother and father. Either Mike Brown's parents failed to teach him right from wrong, or he disobeyed their instruction. But so far, I haven't heard a word of edification, from any of the so-called community leaders or rabble-rousers, instructing our youth that theft and assault are wrong. These are the first lessons of the Ferguson Fiasco.

Mike Brown's third, fourth and fifth mistakes occurred when he disobeyed the instructions of a police officer, disrespected him and ultimately struck him in the face. The truth is had Mr. Brown risen his hands from the get go, at the moment the police officer commanded him to stop; he would still be alive today. The time to put your hands up is at the moment you’re confronted by a police officer, not after insulting him or her, punching them in the face, and struggling for control of their weapon. For you simpletons, that means get your hands out of your pockets, out of your waistband, from up under your coat, drop anything you’re holding and raise both hands in the air. This is the final lesson of the Ferguson Fiasco.

Since when did it become acceptable behavior for a young man to strike a cop? If you think this is acceptable, and you choose to practice it in your own affairs, then your days will likely be short and miserable. If you are a Christian, the book of Romans, Chapter 13, versus 2-5 teaches us that police officers are appointed by God, and when we resist them, we will incur God's judgment. It further advises that we have no reason to fear a police officer so long as we are obeying the law. However, it also warns us that if we are up to no good, we should be afraid, because they don't carry a sidearm in vain.

"Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience."

If you’re not a Christian, then why not apply some good old common sense? The surest way to get roughed-up, injured or shot by the police is to resist them, disobey their orders, get smart with them, or even more stupidly, to walk up and strike one of them in the face. Thus far, I haven't heard any useful lessons from so-called community leaders and rabble-rousers regarding this. Instead, they seem to be justifying Mike Brown's behavior, while leaping to judgment against one appointed to deal with such miscreants. So here’s what I will ask them.

Is punching a police officer right or wrong? And when they seek to evade the question, I will answer it for them. It was wrong yesterday, it's wrong today, and it will be wrong tomorrow. If you errantly choose to strike a gun-packing police officer, know that you will likely wind up in a hospital bed, or worst yet in the county morgue. Don't do it. If a police officer orders you to put your hands in the air, on a wall or to get on the ground, if you value your own life, you best shut your mouth and do exactly what he or she says. Worry about what comes next later.

If you don't believe any of the above, then open your ears and hear wisdom. I speak from experience. When a police officer asks you a question, answer it, and then shut your mouth. If he or she orders you to do something, do it. The same applies to judges. Click here to see what happens when you get smart with a judge. The point is when dealing with local authorities; you need to show them the utmost respect. If you don't respect your own parents, or anyone else's, respect the police. If you don't respect yourself or anyone else, you had best respect a judge.

The bottom line:

We can’t bring Mike Brown back, but we can learn from the circumstances surrounding his death, and pass it on in hopes of saving the next life. If you don't want to be a statistic, don't commit strong-armed robbery, then punch a cop in the face and try to snatch his or her gun. Guilty or innocent, the first thing you do when confronted by the police is put your hands up. Stealing, looting and shoplifting are wrong. Threatening to cause, and/or causing bodily injury are wrong. Arson and destruction of property are wrong. Strong-armed robbery is wrong. Disobeying authorities is wrong. And, striking a police officer is a potentially fatal action. The Golden Rule should be applied in all matters. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)

References:

Trayvon’s Fatal Mistake

Hope and Change on Ice

Paranoid LA Cops: Shoot first, use brain never.

Image via: Live Your Life - The Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln: Day 4

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