MADISON OCHS ’18
It’s been almost four months since the infamous shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The grand jury tasked with deciding the fate of the shooter, police officer Darren Wilson, is rumored to be on the precipice of releasing a verdict. In anticipation of this major event Missouri Governor, Jay Nixon, has enlisted the aid of the National Guard to help hold down the fort should riots and protests take a turn for the violent and dangerous. Is this a way of foreshadowing what the verdict will be? Nixon claims he requested the presence of the 400 National Guard troops regardless of the outcome of the verdict. This simple comment has already caused much of the nation to be up in arms in an attempt to decipher the results of the decision before it is publicly released.
In the midst of these cryptic, hidden meanings and complicated choices being made by those in power, one must remember the only guaranteed fact in this case: no one knows what actually happened. One account of the story rests with Michael Brown, never to be told. One account rests with Officer Wilson, who voluntarily testified for four hours during his hearing. Of the multitude of residents who claim to have seen the shooting occur, no two people have told the same story. Some claim Brown rushed at Wilson prior to being shot, and some claim Wilson chased after him and shot him in the back. One individual reportedly saw Wilson curse at Brown before hitting the teen with his car door. Another completely contradicts this story, stating that Brown cursed at Wilson for asking him to move to the sidewalk before violently shoving an excited Wilson back into his vehicle. It is evident that no one truly remembers what he or she saw, and no two people saw the same thing. Missing even a half of a second of the events could result in the omission of crucial details that could swing the jury’s verdict one way or another. The jury itself is made up of many people, all of who most likely interpreted and understood the events of the trials in radically different ways.
The masses marching for Wilson’s conviction would disagree with me, but that is the beauty of it. Neither opinion is right, and neither is wrong. No one was there and no one knows what truly happened. Yet we are all bombarded with small, minute details and conspiracy theories veiled as factual information from innumerable sources, some credible and some not. In processing this information, we all have a right to form opinions. With that right comes the responsibility to honor the opinions of others. It is a form of mutual respect and in the midst of the tension and confusion surrounding this terrible event, many have forgotten about this critical part of coexisting in a diverse population.
Countless Americans are torn, unsure of how to feel and think about this incident. Given this complete and total lack of factual information and evidence either way, what is the proper course of action? Certainly not playing judge and jury. Not surprisingly, it appears as though the angriest and most inflammatory people are those commenting on articles and blog posts from hundreds or thousands of miles away from Ferguson, Missouri. These Internet jurists exude rage, malice, and even pure hatred towards the others commenting on these posts. It is impossible to see the situation objectively because so much of the media coverage has been skewed by political beliefs and racial discriminations. Even a single word could be dissected over and over for hidden meaning by thousands of people who will all arrive at a different conclusion each time they read it. Sadly, this is the reality in which we live and we must learn to cope with it. Otherwise, these issues will never be resolved.
As with any upsetting, confusing, and troublesome event, one must consciously try to take a step back and remember to take in all information with a grain of salt. The media coverage of the previous riots and protests has fanned the fire in the worst possible way. Headlines are polarizing. People are hypothesizing about who is guilty, promising a new juicy secret, or sharing a shred of a rumor. In this trying time, the nation must do its best to remember that opinions are just that: opinions. Regardless of what the verdict is, the only way to avoid further division and tension in Ferguson, and across the United States, is to remember this fact. Otherwise, hatred will continue to plague the United States, a nation known for its acceptance of all people and its promise to preserve their Constitutional rights and freedoms.
Personally, I believe Officer Darren Wilson is innocent. Michael Brown assaulted him, and assaulting a police officer is a crime. Brown also ran away from Officer Wilson’s car in an attempt to resist arrest, which is also a crime. Therefore, Wilson was within his rights to use the force of a firearm in stopping Brown’s escape from the scene of his crime. I do not believe Officer Wilson would have acted differently were Michael Brown white and I do not believe he would have acted differently if he himself were black. I have read dozens of articles and updates on witness statements and autopsy releases and I believe that Officer Darren Wilson’s actions, though severe and ultimately upsetting, were completely necessary and legal. Did I mention that I was not present at the scene?