I'm not sure when it happened. Somewhere in the decades of cultural programming we started to meld fiction with reality. We began to forget that not everything can be lumped into a pile of good or evil, like the narratives of our favorite television shows. People are not black or white, figuratively speaking. They are complex beings with intricate emotions that can manifest in a myriad of ways, but outside the hordes of protesters, last week's jury failure to indict Darren Wilson seemed to bring out the worst in our warrior culture. Justifications and even celebrations of his murder were rampant.
Even if you wanted to ignore the fact that Michael Brown was African American, there remains an issue to be discerned; a glaring sore at the rotting core of our foundation; an idea woven into the fabric of our society. It's not just that black lives don't matter as much as they should. It's that lives, in general, have lost their value in the eyes of too many. When an eighteen year old kid steals a couple of cigars from a convenience store, he is suddenly ushered to the front of a societal firing squad. For a considerable number of Americans (in a purportedly Christian based nation) this teenager's life immediately had no value; no rehabilitory merit. I can't speak for anyone else, but I did some stupid things when I was a kid, at eighteen; my brain not fully equipped for rational thought; my hormones still running amok. I was irresponsible at times. I lacked the intuition and maturity that develops only years later. Looking back now, it scares the hell out of me, but thank God I survived. Thank God there were no Darren Wilsons there to put a bullet in my head and adjudicate me worthless, based on teenage angst.
What scares me more than that, is that now, these acts of reckless childhood rebellion immediately equivocate a flesh-and-blood person to disposable societal garbage. "He was no good!" "He got what he deserved!" These are just a sample of the insensitive vitriol spouted off during the Michael Brown tragedy. I don't say this to condone any crime, but to seek to understand, above condemnation, should be a value at the center of our fundamental beliefs. We are all a product of our environment, but it seems as though social discrepancies and flagrant inequality are last on our country's list to be deciphered; to be given the attention they deserve.
As an employee of the entertainment industry for more than a few years, I can't ignore the parallels between the morals that exist within a written television or film script and those of every-day-America. Instead of placing more value on a human life, we immediately shuck it off into one of two categories which dictates that for us: Good or Evil. We cheer at the death of those who have crossed us; who have done wrong, on-screen and off. It's really no wonder with corporate media and a government that endorses these same tactics, coupled with cultural ignorance to rally support for perpetual war. War and killing have been taught as the way to solve our problems for centuries. That's how we deal with disagreement, and "evil doers" are how we rationalize unspeakable acts. We vilify the opposition, primarily those with a dark complexion, and the less we know about them, the easier it is to garner support in bombing an entire people to kingdom come. While I in no way doubt the existence of "bad guys" who arguably deserve little mercy -should we be applauding death the way that we do; practically seeking it out like blood thirsty wolves? Doesn't it make more sense to feel sorrow for death than to relish in the misfortune of those that, however misguided, paid the ultimate price?
Michael Brown paid that price, and only to have it reconciled with accusations that he may have made a few bad decisions, which probably had more to do with his environment and living in oppression than who he really was. As a police officer, you are appointed to serve and protect, even if that means protecting someone from themselves. A grown man, armed against a weaponless teen should never yield the kind of results it did in Ferguson. Even if Michael Brown was the bullet charging, Hulk Hogan-like Superman Darren Wilson so conveniently painted him as, there was another way, and he failed Michael Brown that day; no matter what you believe happened. I struggle to think there was no other alternative for a kid with zero weapons. Maybe it was compassion that was sorely bereft in this officer's arsenal. Maybe it was compassion that should have been taught to Darren Wilson in his training, along with how to shoot a gun and take a life. Maybe we could all use just a little bit more in a culture of warriors.