Mixed messages from Ferguson

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels the protests in Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere are not likely to accomplish anything positive and may even portray those who take part in a negative light.

As we watch buildings and cars burn, tear gas drift through the air and see armed police and national guardsmen standing opposite shouting protestors bearing hand-written signs, our thoughts drift to the owners of those buildings and others affected by the protestors actions.

Ferguson toonNot to deny anyone the right to disagree with the grand jury’s decision – or more importantly, to display that disagreement in a public way – but shouldn’t there be a better way to let someone know how you feel? I admit my life is entirely different from the majority of those protesting, so what I say can be questioned. But I still have the right to voice it, just as anyone else in this country.

But displaying an opinion in such a violent, destructive manner that harms or affects others negatively dilutes the message, doesn’t it? While most protests outside Missouri were peaceful, it’s the fires and destruction we see on TV, social media and news media everywhere. The message of racial intolerance, bigotry and law enforcement bias is mostly lost when we see those images. And you have many “wannabe” protestors who admittedly joined in when they saw it happening. Maybe for the chance to act out publicly, not for the cause many other protestors want to stress.

Ferguson signAnd what positive change will result? I’d say very little, sadly. I wish I could come up with something that would address the issue of tolerance and acceptance, so we could avoid these types of events. Better minds than mine have pondered the question for decades. I try to support those who work on issues like these and admire their efforts. Still, I worry we’ll be looking at more such protests, violence and even hatred in the years ahead.

If we keep taking to the streets with the intent to commit violence, inflict damage and even injury or death, maybe that’s what we deserve. Optimistically, I hope we have a collective “wake up” moment sometime. But viewing what’s happening and has happened elsewhere, it’s hard to not be pessimistic.

Not our finest hour by a long shot.