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To riot or not to riot

Obama has called for peaceful reaction to the decision the grand jury in Ferguson has reached.  In his speech, he mentions what Mike Brown's father said about the matter--also that people should be peaceful.  I am a peaceful person.  I do not feel a need to personally be violent.  I see the wisdom in being peaceful and in striving for harmony with others in the community.

However, I do not agree with the argument.  Obama says that there is never an excuse for violence.  Of course I find that ironic because he's using violence left and right in the Middle East.  I am a pacifist.  I don't like violence.  I like peace.  But I cannot say that I feel there is never an excuse for violence.  I empathize with those who feel so frustrated that their only recourse is to turn to violence.  I feel even that it may be logical to do so.  When injustice reaches a certain level, revolting against authority figures guilty of creating that injustice becomes justified.  Or, as Thomas Jefferson would put it:
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
I admit I didn't understand the particulars of the justice system here.  I had to look up what an indictment was because I'd never even thought about it before.  Darren Wilson was not tried and found innocent.  The grand jury was to decide not whether he was guilty but whether he would be tried for a crime.  The decision they made Monday night was that he shouldn't be tried.  Sadly, police officers are almost never indicted.  That is to say that, in nearly all cases, officers aren't tried for any actions they commit while on duty.  They might kill people but never be tried for murder.  In Utah, police kill more people than gangsters do.  Why do we tolerate such behavior?  Why do we excuse such behavior?  Why do we allow such behavior?

I think that it's perfectly reasonable for people to feel defeated by the system--to feel that justice is impossible when working within the system we have established.  Statistics would certainly indicate that there is a huge problem with racial profiling in our justice system.  When it becomes apparent that the system does not work to provide justice as it is meant to do, the only logical conclusion is that we must step outside the system in order to achieve justice.

Standing peacefully by as people perform atrocious acts only sends the message that those acts are acceptable.  Watching police officers pick off our fellow citizens in the streets one by one and reacting peacefully will only encourage more police officers to kill more of our fellow citizens because they see that they can get away with it.  We must not tolerate such behavior.  We must let them know that their behavior in unacceptable.  I do so by writing strongly-worded blog posts.  Other people do so by rioting and looting.  I do not disapprove of their methods.  I believe that the violence has a place.

Violence is sending a strong message of discontent.  There is sufficient and justifiable reason for the discontent of many members of the Ferguson community, and in other communities all across the country--and indeed all over the world.  There is, in my opinion, justifiable reason for the violence of those who feel unfairly represented by the law and the legal system.  Obama says that we are a country with the rule of law established.  Theoretically, that is true.  However, in practice that is clearly false.  We do not serve justice in our country, we serve those in power.  Rich white people with connections are treated much better than poor non-white people with no powerful connections.  We have the rule of cronyism, not the rule of law.

I will not be joining in any violent protests.  I will not be looting or burning or vandalizing any property.  However, I will not speak critically of those who do.  I empathize with them.  I feel their frustration.  I feel their intense hurt and anger at the blatant injustice that they feel.  To be clear, in my opinion, this is not a question of Mike Brown being killed by Darren Wilson.  This is a much larger issue.  For the sake of argument, let us assume that Wilson is not racist and that Brown was attacking him and Wilson only killed the young man out of necessity to save his own life (not that I believe that--but for the sake of the point I'm trying to make in this blog post, let us assume all of that).  There are far too many injustices toward black people in our country.  There are far too many cases where a young black male is shot and killed by a white police officer.  There are far too many cases where black people are arrested for a crime that a white person would not be arrested for.  There are far too many cases where a black person will receive a much harsher sentence for precisely the same crime that a white person committed.  The injustice is glaring.  It is not something that happens every once in a while in extremely rural places.  It is something which happens on a regular basis all throughout the country.

I wish that all people could get along.  I wish that we could all live in harmony with each other.  I would like to see people voice discontent peaceably.  However, I believe that there is a place for violent protest.  I believe that there comes a time when circumstances are so intolerable that they justify or even demand that violent action be taken.  If someone insists on oppressing you, politely asking them repeatedly to please be more fair clearly will be ineffective.  When the message is clearly sent that a peaceful reaction will be ignored, violent reactions seem to be justified.

As Martin Luther King Jr did, I dream of a future where all people are judged by their actions and not by the color of their skin.  That day has not yet come, but I dream of a future where it is reality.  That day will be a brighter day in the annals of human history than today was.

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