If any change is to come from the death of Michael Brown, we, the people, have to change. We can look to politicians or the judicial system for change, but in a representative democracy, the government doesn't change until the people it represents change. Here are eight things we can learn from the current situation in Ferguson, Missouri and the surrounding region.
1. Listening is hard.
Listening is more than just hearing words. Listening is when you integrate other people's viewpoints and perspectives into your own view of the world. In fact, real listening means changing your perspective and your view of the world. If listening isn't really hard, you're not really listening and you're certainly not changing.
2. Being on "a side" is being part of the problem.
If you are on one side or the other, you're part of the problem. Being on a "side" means having a pre-conceived notion of how things are or should be and unwilling to consider other viewpoints. Before you post your opinion to social media, ask yourself what will actually be accomplished by yet another person saying the same thing that half the people are saying.
3. We need real leaders.
Our leaders have failed to bring forward a vision and truly lead the region and the country toward a vision of the future, like the greatest leader of all time, Martin Luther King, Jr. did. We need a vision of what this world can be like when it's right, not a vision of what's wrong with it -- for that we have CNN.
4. We have to have a deeper conversation.
Simply stating what side you are on and then listing off a string of reasons why you are on that side is not enough. If it were, we could solve this and every other problem in the world on Twitter in about eight seconds. The conversation has to go deeper. And by deeper, I really just mean listening again.
5. We have to quit talking about talking and start talking.
Just saying "we have to have a conversation" is not enough. Elected officials, church leaders and the Ferguson Commission can facilitate some conversations, but real change won't happen until the people who matter (everyone) starts talking. And I mean deep conversations that foster understanding, not just using different words and antidotes to restate which side you are on.
6. We have to start listening.
As I stated in number one, it's hard. But when some of the people do the talking, some of the people need to do the listening. Listening doesn't just mean hearing the words and then restating which side you are on in response. It means hearing and understanding the words and changing the filter through which you view the world. If it's not really f*cking hard, you're not doing it right.
7. Living in the middle of social unrest sucks.
I know from personal experience that living in the middle of civil unrest, violence and vandalism is not pleasant. But it happens a lot all over the world. This is an opportunity to better understand the serious issues that exist in countries all over the world. It's an opportunity to learn from them and -- if we don't screw it up, maybe even teach them something.
8. Conversation is useless if nobody is changing.
Everyone has some changing to do. Changing means getting off your "side." You might, in some small way (or a big way) be wrong. And there's nothing wrong with being wrong. Being wrong might just be what helps Ferguson, St. Louis, the United States, the world to finally be right.
Have the courage to be wrong.