For many, justice seems far off today. And with it, the other American dreams: peace, freedom, equality. Some will say they vanished in the night. Some will wonder how they can love their country today.
This is all because Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, this summer, was not indicted by a St. Louis grand jury.
Whatever is required now, prayer is required most of all, from all parties, all sides. Prayer that God would change us, change the rhythm our hearts and the nature ofTalk TTT our havens. That he would forgive us all our trespasses. That he would help us to love his will and not our own.
And, at the same time, the other great conversation is required – the conversation between humans with disparate views. The cognitive dissonance washed over us here, and flooded out in fists and fighting words. We must talk and, more than that, listen, or we have done nothing.
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The case – which should never be reduced to merely a “case,” because it is also the tragedy of a family, friends, a community, and a nation – affects all of us in one way or another. Some will be fine tomorrow, some will be scarred forever. I confess there will be many Americans more deeply impacted than I, but I can’t help but think of the burying weight with which this grief barreled down.
So many lives will never be the same. Michael Brown’s parents. Darren Wilson. Dorian Johnson. Prosecutor Robert McCulloch. The jurors.
The country will change. Or it should. This will be a pivot point, however slight, hopefully for the improvement of race relations in America.
But for now, and for the past few months, the word “senseless” has been working in overdrive. A “senseless” death. A “senseless” case. “Senseless” media coverage. We pray – and we are confident – that God uses the bad for good, loss for gain, the senseless for change. But as much as we believe it, we feel it may be distant. God can transform us totally in the blinking of an eye, but often he works over lifetimes. Over generations.
And that’s what I’m thinking about: the generations.
Consider all the young men at the hottest point of this firestorm.
It is not lost on me that a great many young women, and old women, and old men, and children, feel the incinerating flash of all this withering blaze. But as I watch the news, I see so, so many young men.
As the people rise, so many guys get caught up in the cauterizing, cremating torchlight.
Michael Brown was a young man – too young for all this. And he is not alone in the too young camp. Ranks of American youth, many of them boys of color, cut down by the powers or each other or the system.
Dorian Johnson is a young man, one who saw his friend lying dead in the street. What will he do now? Where will he go? He will be seared forever.
Darren Wilson is a young man. He too faced a young boy in a pool of blood, killed by his own hand. He may escape a prison of bars and handcuffs, but there are other prisons, and will he escape those?
But what strikes me most is what I see on the live blogs and CNN news feed: one swarm of mostly young men facing off against another. I see footage of a young protester staring through smoke, then pan to a young police officer, staring back. Even the reporters, ducking at the thumping sound of explosions and donning gas masks are mostly men, though a little less young.
All this violence tearing at the hearts of boys, and all the younger boys who are watching. Fire and smoke and teargas, but also the inner turmoil of grief and anger and fear. Why does it seem in our nature to be fired up by broken glass and danger?
I looked out the window at work tonight. Even in Chicago, a flock of young men and some women in winter jackets, facing off with mounted police, not violently, but chanting and glaring. They collected in a cold mass on Wacker, and south of the Michigan Avenue Bridge. I will tell you the truth; I had an impulse to go down there. Not for political reasons, but for the adrenaline.
The people have the power. I pray they’ll use it wisely when they go to the streets.
But too often young men try to grab for power. Guys covered in pimples looting, rioting instead of protesting. Boys who this morning were glued to their Xboxes will tonight be hurling stones through windows, or wanting to.
Other young men will take up batons and riot shields, and will feel the biting chill of spiking epinephrine as they stand side-by-side with their “brothers in arms.” They will be tempted, surely, to disown the badge they wear: To Protect and to Serve.
Bloggers and news anchors who love the thrill of reporting from a domestic conflict zone will charge in as well. They will describe the problem, thinking they are themselves of little issue to it.
And all these young men, in another life, or maybe on a day coming soon, could be friends. Weren’t we the very same in the womb? Won’t we be the same again when we turn back to dust? The young men could work together for a common good, and not singe each other in the conflagration of their own personal good.
They could. But I’m not sure they can do it on their own.
So pray that the police officers and the protestors and the photographers will not give into the impulse of gangsterism and desperation, the one that permeates the cultural mindset of so many young men around the world. Adrift at sea – let it be a sea of chivalry instead of blood and money.
Let the teenagers and young adults who are grieving today be raised up tomorrow. Let leaders come out of this tragedy, not bitter thugs of either law or lawlessness. Let a legacy of distrust and racism be replaced with a legacy of dialogue and reconciliation.
Pray for the young men, that they will stop smoldering in the ashes of violence and rivalry, but kindle instead a fire of peace and brotherhood.
It’s true that iron sharpens iron, but it can also be bent and broken. Sometimes it is better to melt it all down and refashion a single, solid beam.