The Wind Increases
Around sunset on Monday, the wind increased. As I took the dog for a walk through the howling, tumbling streets, branches snapped off of the trees above us and fell skittering to the sidewalk. A neighbour, bent to the elements and hurrying along, looked at me, “I’m scared!” he said without pausing. It seemed that the sky itself was breaking, all that was earthbound now in flight.
All day the radio had been warning of this windstorm and the perils it was bringing to civilization, so amidst the sirens in the distance and falling hydro wires, it was easy enough to think that a new and apocalyptic age was being ushered in. Encouraging these feelings of dread was the fact that the grand jury announcement on the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, was to be announced in just a few hours.
(Paul McCulloch, father of Robert)
In a defensive, almost combative tone, St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch (His father was a police officer who was alleged to have been killed by a black suspect when McCulloch was 12-years-old) spoke for nearly 45 minutes, casting aspersions on social media, journalists and Ferguson residents in announcing that officer Darren Wilson would not be charged in the death of Michael Brown.
Nobody was surprised.
This hotly anticipated announcement took place at 9 pm, as if engineered to encourage riots and rebellious protests throughout the night, rather than minimize them. The state was well prepared, of course, and the predictable happened.
It seems that the laws are set-up very specifically to protect police officers from being charged with a crime while in the process of discharging their constabulary duties. This doesn’t feel right. If anything, those wielding power must be held accountable to a higher standard, not freed from one. It is obvious that it’s easier for somebody in power, especially institutional power, to lie and protect that lie, than it is for somebody without power to do so, and if a police officer, with the entire might and authority of his department behind him, kills a teen who does not have a gun, firing 12 shots that hit him 7 times, then an indictment is essential, if only for the general good of a grieving and shocked community.
It’s widely believed that in America individual rights trump all, that Darren Wilson’s right to protect himself was more important than a community’s right to have the way in which he protected himself tried.
But it often feels like individual rights, the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are merely symbolic, if not smoke and mirrors. It’s the mask America wears, and not the heart beating in the chest. America seems more interested in protecting private property and capital than it does in the individual rights of people, and nobody lives this reality more painfully and vividly than the African-American community. White fear, a terror that things will be taken from them, has made blacks– who were once property on this soil–an implicit threat, a deadly, almost mystical weapon in and of themselves, that must be dehumanized and controlled, but never truly accepted.