Moral confusion in Ferguson
“It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
Edmund Burke’s insight returned to mind while watching cable news coverage of the rampage in Ferguson, Mo., after St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced that Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
The rioting, looting, arson and gunfire that began after McCulloch relayed the grand jury’s decision, a decision long predicted and anticipated, revealed the unspoken truth about Ferguson. The problem is not its 53-man police department. The problem is the hoodlum element those Ferguson officers have to police, who, on Monday night, burned and pillaged the stores on the main streets of their own community.
In the wake of the Ferguson riot, some seek absolution for the rioters by redistributing responsibility to the police and prosecutor. Why, they demand, did McCulloch wait until 8 p.m., St. Louis time, to report the grand jury findings?
Well, perhaps it was to allow time for kids to get home from school and off the playgrounds, for businesses to close, for rush hour to end. Hoodlums from Ferguson earlier stormed onto I-70 and shut down the Interstate — the way home for tens of thousands of St. Louis residents.
Whatever the reason, it does not excuse the rampant criminality that lasted until midnight. “No justice, no peace!” has been a howl of the protesters. What they mean is strikingly clear: Michael Brown, one of us, is dead. Therefore, this cop, Darren Wilson, must go on trial for his life.
But this is not justice in America. We have a legal process to determine who was in the right and who was in the wrong, and whether a crime had been committed by a policeman in the use of deadly force.
That 10 o’clock split screen of President Obama in the White House briefing room calling for peaceful protest and greater efforts by police to understand “communities of color,” side by side with graphic video of mob mayhem in Ferguson, tells a sad truth.
America’s election of a black president has not closed and, for some, has not even narrowed the racial divide. We are now half a century on from the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Blacks have risen out of poverty and the working class to become successes as actors, artists, athletes, executives, politicians, TV anchors, journalists, scholars, generals, authors, etc. But if the hate we saw on the streets of Ferguson and heard from many voices on Monday night is a reflection of sentiment in the black community, then the racial divide in some parts of America is as great as ever.
The morning after the riot, President Cornell William Brooks of the NAACP called the grand jury decision not to indict Wilson “salt in the wound of a brutal injustice. … The people in this community and across the country are … saddened and outraged.”
Where, from the president on down, do we hear any condemnation of what went on in Ferguson Monday night and of those responsible, coupled with a clarion call for the restoration of law and order in Ferguson, as an essential precondition of any civilized society?
Pat Buchanan is the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.”