Disconnect.That is the feeling any sane person must have when watching the rioting in Ferguson, or when listening to the self-proclaimed wise men justify the rioting.How can anyone blame the policeman who killed Michael Brown for defending himself and the rest of us from violence? How can anyone turn Michael Brown, who first attacked a store owner and stole from him, and then beat a policeman, into a hero?
“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! ... Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!” —Isaiah 5:20-21, 23
That is the feeling any sane person must have when watching the rioting in Ferguson, or when listening to the self-proclaimed wise men justify the rioting.
How can anyone blame the policeman who killed Michael Brown for defending himself and the rest of us from violence? How can anyone turn Michael Brown, who first attacked a store owner and stole from him, and then beat a policeman, into a hero? Does attacking a policeman until you are shot dead now qualify you to be a hero?
Like I said... disconnect.
But when you listen to these passionate advocates for locking up the policeman, you know that they are in earnest about protecting the “legacy” of Michael Brown by sending the officer to jail. And while there may be an element of political gamesmanship to it, of mere exploitation and demagoguery to promote an agenda, it seems to me much more than that.
Indeed, it seems like a large percentage of our U.S. population is brainwashed or occluded — as if they cannot discern good and evil. How else can you explain the wish to reward the wicked and take away the righteousness of the righteous?
For another perspective, let us consider the parable of the good Samaritan, as told by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. This story is well understood as a quiet reminder that good men do not help each other merely because they identify with each other based on religion or other outward criteria such as race, but because they identify with each other as human beings.
That quality has apparently been lost in the national media debate about Ferguson, so it is useful to once again note that it took a Samaritan to treat the beleaguered Jew in the parable as a human being while his fellow Jews passed him by.
That story is told by Jesus in response to a question by a wise man of that day, “a certain lawyer” who no doubt thought he could trip up Jesus by asking him, “Who is my neighbor?”
It is just such a question which the “wise” men of Ferguson, including many lawyers, have asked in regard to the death of Michael Brown. They want to know why Michael Brown does not get treated like a “neighbor” but the parable of the good Samaritan throws light in the dark places of both Ferguson and our national dialogue.
You probably know the outlines of the biblical story.
“A certain man [presumably a Jew] went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.”
Two respected Jews — a priest and a Levite — came down the same road, and when they saw the beaten man, they “passed by on the other side,” leaving him to fend for himself.
A short while later, a Samaritan came upon the injured man “and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.”
Jesus concludes his tale by asking which of the three “was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves.” The lawyer rightfully concludes that the neighbor was the one who showed mercy, the Samaritan, regardless of the fact that Jews and Samaritans hated each other over sectarian differences that were much more severe than any differences between white America and black America.
Now, let’s imagine that the “certain man” who was set upon by thieves was a policeman. Let’s say that it was Darren Wilson, the police officer who was traveling down a certain road in Ferguson, Missouri, when he spotted two young men who appeared to match the description of thieves who had just committed a strong-arm robbery a few blocks away.
Who were the highwaymen or thieves in this modern-day parable? Let’s imagine it to be Michael Brown, the huge 18-year-old alleged felon, and his traveling companion, Dorian Johnson. It is not hard to cast Brown as a thief in this story because he was grasping a handful of stolen Swisher cigars when officer Wilson, responding to a 911 call, spotted the suspect and tried to talk to him.
Probably Officer Wilson wished he could be anywhere else in the world rather than confronting two potentially violent criminals on a public street that noon hour, but he did not have the choice of “passing by on the other side of the street.” Policemen have to walk into the midst of danger everyday, and they have to hope they will walk out of it, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.
In this case, Wilson was attacked by Michael Brown through the open window of his SUV patrol vehicle. Brown beat the officer around the face and struggled with him for his gun. Two rounds were fired from the officer’s gun during this encounter. At this point, the criminal suspect flees and the policeman has to decide what to do. Being a lawman, and despite injuries to himself, Officer Wilson follows his training and pursues the suspect in order to prevent him from doing harm to anyone else. When Brown turned and approached Officer Wilson, the policeman shot him multiple times, the last shot being a fatal shot to the head.
Eyewitness testimony was no doubt contradictory about exactly how the shooting occurred, but whether Michael Brown had his hands up while he was approaching the policeman has no relevance whatsoever. “Hands up, don’t shoot” is the slogan of Brown’s supporters, but putting your hands in the air does not give you permission to approach a police officer whom you have just beaten. The correct slogan here is “Hands up, down on the ground.” That is the only way to assure you will not be shot in similar circumstances.
The race of either the victim or the defendant is also entirely irrelevant, as there are dangerous people of all races, and police have to react based on threat level, not based on concern about skin color. To remove that opportunity to act decisively from a policeman means that they will increasingly be victims, not protectors.
The Levite and the priest who looked the other way and did nothing to help the man attacked by thieves in Jesus’ parable are ultimately not just bad Jews; they are bad people. In a truly colorblind society, we would not talk about a white cop and a black criminal, but rather good and evil.
Those people who walk mockingly around the injured police officer who was set upon by thieves and show him no kindness or respect are just like the Levite and the priest who did not recognize their neighbor. That includes multiple politicians such as President Obama, multiple lawyers such as Attorney General Eric Holder, multiple community organizers such as Al Sharpton, and multiple so-called journalists such as Rachel Maddow.
So finally, who is the good Samaritan? Hopefully, it is you, dear reader, because the hope of the country is in your hands.