Anyone who has ever walked across a stream knows it can be difficult to see clearly when someone stirs up the sediment and the water becomes muddy.
The same applies in current events.
It can be difficult to see the truth amid the turmoil that started in Missouri and is spreading across the nation.
A few things do, however, seem reasonably clear.
For example, it seems clear some of the people who are complaining the loudest about the situation in Ferguson don’t give a rat’s backside about the young man who was shot or the cop who shot him. These people have their own agenda. The Ferguson case just provides an opportunity for them to advance that agenda.
Much emphasis was placed on the build-up to the decision about whether or not to indict the officer in that case. What struck me was that it didn’t seem like people were waiting to find the truth.
It appeared that many people made up their minds a long time ago, and whatever facts may or may not have emerged were not going to change that.
I doubt many people were surprised when violence ensued after the decision not to indict was announced.
I believe the people at the core of the looting and vandalism were a fairly small percentage of those present. They may or may not have cared what happened to the young man who was shot, but I don’t believe that was their primary motivation.
I think it was just opportunistic violence for the sake of it. I have a hard time believing the people involved were seeking justice.
How will looting, destroying property, or burning businesses help the family of the young man who was killed? All that these cowardly acts accomplished was creating new victims.
Where is the justice for those whose businesses were destroyed? Where is the justice for the employees who don’t have a job to go to today because the place they work is closed? Who is standing up for the rights of the citizens who once again have to clean up and rebuild their communities?
Some observers have defended the actions of the looters and vandals, and said those who committed these acts are frustrated because some people can’t get justice under our legal system.
That’s a cop-out.
Those who resort to violence when they don’t get the results they want aren’t working toward justice. They are promoting anarchy.
There are deep issues underlying the friction in Ferguson, issues that started long before last August.
We have to be careful about painting with too broad a brush, however.
There are cops who do bad things, and there are young men who do bad things. But when we arbitrarily extrapolate this and suggest all police officers are bad, or all young men are bad, we muddy the water and lose sight of the truth.
The path to truth lies in specifics, not in broad generalities.
Sadly, there are those among us who are not interested in truth. They will take every opportunity to muddy the waters and distort the truth to further their own agendas.
They convince a lot of well-intentioned people to go along with them.
We are fortunate to live in a country in which citizens have the right to peacefully protest and to speak out against injustice.
We must be careful to remember, however, that mob justice is not justice at all.
Real problems exist in Missouri and elsewhere in the US, but those problems will not be solved by riots any more than they will be solved by treating law-abiding citizens like terrorists or insurgents.
The way to solve problems is by finding the truth and dealing with situations based on specific facts, not rumors.
Even some of those well-intentioned citizens in Minneapolis and other cities who are protesting in opposition to the decision in Missouri not to indict the officer seem to be contributing to the problem.
Some are carrying signs that say “black lives matter.”
Of course they do. But wouldn’t it be better to say “ALL lives matter?” Why do we need to distinguish?
Doing so only reinforces the barriers between people.
Suggesting that all white police officers are bad makes no more sense than suggesting all young black men are bad.
Being black or white doesn’t make a person guilty or innocent.
Lumping groups of people together and judging them by the color of their skin creates injustice; it doesn’t cure it.
Divisiveness and hate clearly won’t solve anything. Respect and compassion, on the other hand, just might, and no amount of muddying the water will change that.