Misguided Passion Starts Fires - A Ferguson Reflection

“It is not who is right, but what is right, that is of importance.”

– Thomas Huxley

I have this quote on a post-it, hovering at my desk, just above my computer screen. I don’t read it everyday, and I’m not about to engage in a sanctimonious diatribe pointed at Ferguson Extremists and insane rioters/protestors around the country. I have it as a reminder, once in a while, to glance up to even when my thought process doesn’t warrant such a moral declaration. Ferguson successfully reminded me of this quote…Like you need me to list out the countless wrong things done last night in the name of equality, due process, justice system, blah, blah, blah. We know that Houston has a problem (not actually the city of Houston).

Huxley’s wisdom isn’t prevalent because of anything he’s done in his life, or any high horsed orator uttering the phrase to the masses (including this sap of a writer). Simplicity makes this quote resonate in the halls of the moral keep we should all wish to reside in…not for some self-fulfilling religious obligation or punch ticket to heaven, or nirvana, or whatever afterlife you believe (or not believe) in…but because if this sort of wisdom was followed more often than not, incidences in this world would probably be less convoluted, complicated, incestuous, and beaten to a pulp from the almighty egos that master our decisions and opinions every day.

Ferguson Frenzy

Ferguson…hm, where do I begin? Screw the facts of the case, testimony, verdict, grand jury report, etc. The aftermath leaves a far worse taste in my mouth than the case. Summing up the activity: Riots, arson, looting, smoke bombs, and so on. This doesn’t account for the plethora of racial slurs most certainly shouted in the streets of every major city in the United States. Another disgusting display of behavior and attitudes in our country, leaving the rest of the world scratching their head and thinking, “These guys are our leaders?” I’m sure the guffaws were abundant as TwitterVerse and FacebookWorld portrays hate with pictures and eye-witness accounts of the atrocities.

Per usual, so much time and energy wasted…and in the name of what? Racism? Sure, the very notion of disenfranchising a race (or sex or religion or sexual orientation for that matter) is a defining characteristic of human garbage. Problem being: Racism is what people wanted because that’s how they drew their sides. Black people were going to use this against white people – “See, a black man can never get a fair trial when going against white people!” Then reciprocated by white people, “White police officers can’t engage with black people because you’ll just call us racists.” I’m sure more arguments were extrapolated from this case, but let’s distill it down to the very core: we don’t really trust the other. Why? Because we’re too busy worrying about who is right, not what is right. Call it a deep-rooted problem, which most certainly is, but the fact remains. Perhaps only generational understanding and awareness can solve this one.

Right Thing to Do

Passion for justice will never go unnoticed – in fact, that’s where there is hope. Amid the nonsense driven by rioters, looters, anarchists, and maniacs, there is unbridled passion for the right thing to be done. That is the good news here. People are calling for right, but are egregiously blurred within the foggy mess…leaving the incapacity to know what the right action is.

Save for the mentally unstable, who would agree that looting shops was the right thing to do? Setting buildings on fire? Shouting profanities and racial slurs? Who thinks that is right? Not good people (and I’d argue that there are more good people in the world than bad – this does not account for stupid). Everyone knows these actions aren’t merited, no matter the degree of justification. Nothing is reversed or undone, just piled on, which always makes the stench even worse.

Let’s say, just for kicks, we redirect that energy and passion to good. What is the large injustice? Racism, right? A community torn because pigment on someone’s skin is lighter or darker, or a different hue. The message needs to change. Leaders in these racially polarized communities need to understand what their message is, and if it’s the right message. Whatever congregation, electorate, group, community center, place where people gather, harmonious behavior needs to be message. Co-existence needs to be an appetizer that graduates to an entree of culturally blending. We’re not asking everyone to sing Joy to the World while holding hands and exchanging babies. Provocative thinking can jettison hate and judgment, inviting sense and compassion into the heart.

With any tumultuous situation, we look to leaders to have a voice and tell us, “Everything will be okay. We just have to do this to make the situation better.” Where was a leader last night? On a micro (Ferguson) or macro (ahem, Obama) scale? Challenging our people, not just condoning flowery rioting, to doing the right thing is a lot more of a courageous act than adding fodder for the crazies.

My challenge to leaders is simply to remember the words of Huxley, then tell all their followers.




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