I watched limited coverage of the news last night. I saw enough to know that, as predicted, Ferguson erupted in anger and violence. Peaceful protests were quickly lost in the rampage. Anger coursed through the streets of the small town, and spread across the country with protests springing up in Denver, Chicago, Oakland, New York, and more.
I watched little coverage because the anger jumped from the screen and began coursing through my veins. I felt powerless and frustrated as the images flashed across the screen. As I wrote yesterday, I was not privy to the evidence and testimony the Grand Jury poured over since being sat August 25, nor have I read the newly released documents from the hearing. I did, however, pay attention to the announcement, when it was finally made.
When the “no indictment” ruling was read, I empathized with both sides. How could I not? There are parents who still mourn the loss of their son and now left feeling justice was not served. On the other hand, there is a young officer, a newlywed, whose life is forever changed and his career (at least in Ferguson) likely ended. My heart breaks for all parties involved. So many lives changed in the matter of minutes.
Crawling into bed last night, I turned on the TV to hear the updates before I said a prayer and closed my eyes. I hadn’t watched any of the “live coverage” as it unfolded. The replayed images were horrific enough. More lives changed, possibly destroyed, as business were burned to the ground in Ferguson. People scurried through broken windows and emerged with arms filled with stolen goods. Cars were set ablaze. Tear gas canisters were set off to control and disperse a crowd.
Then, I heard it, and my blood boiled. The reporter said the protests had turned violent, that protesters were looting and setting buildings on fire. No, no, no! I reject the notion that those who were there to protest the verdict are the same that set a building ablaze. I reject the theory that the woman, man, or child that set out with a sign to express sadness and ask for change is the same that emerged from their home with a mask to conceal their identity and commit a crime. I reject the idea that all protestors turn violent when race is at the central issue.
I’m not foolish. I understand the concept and reality of the “mob mentality.” On the small TV screen in my bedroom last night I watched anger unite strangers and tear through a community without discretion. I blurred the images I saw last night with those that I saw those many years ago during the Rodney King riots. In both, the voices that had gathered to peacefully protest were drowned out by the destruction of anger and a community is left in disrepair. Peace was lost in the ashes of despair.
Thankfully, there was no loss of (physical) life last night. Still, a great deal was lost. Ask the man who stepped on the bus this morning to go to work only to step off the bus in front of the Dollar Store where he (once) worked at and found it burned to the ground. Ask the owner of the local Cesar’s Pizza, who spent part of his evening trying to turn away the angry mob from his livelihood, only to lose the battle in the wee hours of the morning.
Ferguson stands broken this morning. Businesses lost, jobs gone; someone’s life’s work, their hope for a better future, and their place of purpose wiped out from the anger that fuels the divide in this country. Once again, lives changed in the matter of minutes.
I don’t have the answers. I don’t know that anyone does, yet. What I do have is hope. Washing out my television’s image, the sunrise shined through the front window this morning. I saw slivers of the early morning colors in my living room before I stood to open the curtains. As I drew back the sheer drapes, brilliant pinks and golds streamed past the bare branches and showered me with hope, the hope that comes with a new day. Just as I watched anger unite a mob of criminals last night, I’ve witnessed pain, horror, and disbelief unite a country. After the terror of 9/11, there was a warmth strangers shared, looking at each other in the eyes, lending an ear to the individual stories that stretched from family to family, state to state, and country to country, weaving us together as a nation and a world. United by the unimaginable criminal events of a clear September morning, hope reigned then, and the optimist believes hope can reign again when we, as a nation, say “try it one more time.”