by Jim Marx
Viewpoint about how Ferguson could have been avoided.
I don’t pretend to know, nor could I even be able to imagine the troubles that African-Americans face when dealing with the police. As a middle-class white-man I’ve only my own personal perspective to apply towards this situation in Ferguson, MO, in 2014. Let me just say that when I was a kid, a teen, the cops in my small town were pretty cool, for the most part. There were one or two cops whose name everyone knew after a buddy was sprayed with mace for simply being there, and this same cop would be talked about every now and then. We figured he was the exception and we tried to avoid dealing with him in any way that might provoke him. The rest of the force seemed to be able to do their jobs and patrol our city without going out of their way to try to settle scores, or personal vendettas they seemed to be harboring from their own high school days.
Usually, given enough time and occurrence, the cops would find us parked off the roads, hoisting beers around a small metal trash can we’d swiped from an alley. There would be a fire blazing out of the top of the can. We didn’t think anything was wrong with that fire being basically in the middle of a dry field that led in all directions to homes we all lived in. Luckily, nothing bad ever happened other than the cops showing up, making us dump out our beers, confiscating our weed, bongs, pipes, etc. They’d allow us to get back in our cars, or our parents cars, and drive drunk back home. This would usually require some of us to drive drunk to neighboring towns to return friends to their homes. In fact, there was never a time we believed we might be too drunk to drive. Some of us even barked insults at the cops while they stood there watching us repeatedly open and empty cases of beer. Sometimes, a buddy would go too far and he might be cited for minor in possession, or curfew. We still believed them to be giving us a break because we all knew we were continually breaking the law.
Even through my early 20’s I received many warnings from cool cops, rather than citations. Eventually, registration expiration led to failures to appear; which led to warrants being issued; which led to my first of many arrests. These early arrests I first developed a disdain for police, even though they let me park my car somewhere, or have a friend drive my car home. Pretty soon I realized how fortunate we all were back in the good old days. Cops became more and more my enemy but when dealing with them, I learned early on that respect was the key. I didn’t like them, but I said, “Yes, sir”, and addressed them as “Yes, officer”. If you acted like a dick, they’d treat you as such. If you acted respectfully, they may still take you in, but explain to you that it wasn’t their decision and their orders from “Their Captain” insisted upon this.
I learned from my first arrest that just because you are being bailed-out, you still have to wait until they’re ready to let you out. If you act impatient with them, or don’t do exactly as they ask, you will only make matters worse for yourself.
I refer back to my youth mostly because of the age comparison to Michael Brown. He was 18. He was in a racially divided community. He was well-aware of how police are these days. He was not in anything close to my situations. All I know is what I have read and heard on the news. I already stated I couldn’t begin to imagine how blacks feel about anything. I do know, though, that any white person I’ve ever known or heard of, anywhere on Earth, who walked into a cigar shop and felt he could have whatever he wanted in there without paying for it, because he was bigger than the shop owner, would probably leave it at that. After he walked off from that place he could have had a big laugh with his buddies about, “What’s he gonna do about it?” Anyone with half a brain would feel like he got away with something, and would probably lay-low for a bit. At 18, you know you actually are responsible for your actions. From what I’ve been able to ascertain, the adult black male then proceeded to walk down the middle of the street, holding up traffic and without any regard for anybody’s rights he felt “Who’s gonna stop me?”
When you are big and get away with stuff because you’re big, and begin to feel entitled to things and ways of behavior, because you’re big; and lose all respect for other people’s civil rights, because you’re big, then you are a thug. Michael Brown may have been denied any benefit of doubt, and perhaps was denied any other recourse of action by the involved police officer, because he was known to be a thug. If any white man, anywhere on Earth had reached into a squad car window to struggle with a peace officer and try to obtain his firearm, whether big, small, white, black, pink, whatever, that showed a blatant disrespect for that cop. Walking down the middle of the street showed no respect for his fellow citizens, and strong-arming a shop owner for cigars showed no respect for the rules we’ve placed for ourselves to live by. We aren’t a socialist regime, we simply want a few rules to protect us from pure and simple thuggery. How big or strong you are doesn’t determine whether you have to follow the rules that everyone else has to follow. This simple statement is what separates us from other animals on this planet. We are supposed to be civilized. If you believe that someone should be able to reach into a car window and struggle for a weapon with a police officer without lethal consequences, you’re not living in a real world. What if Michael Brown had been successful at obtaining the firearm from the officer? Michael Brown would have known that cop would have no choice but to use that shotgun that’s mounted by the dashboard. Michael Brown would probably have not given Officer Wilson the opportunity to retrieve that shotgun. Officer Wilson would have been killed and the community would probably not be in the news. There would have been no destruction of Ferguson businesses, and another thug would lose whatever fear of reprisal to do the same as Michael Brown had done. Lawlessness breeds more lawlessness. Civility demands us obeying the laws that govern us. This isn’t a racial issue. This is a human issue.