Some time back in the early fifties the U.S. Navy conducted an “exercise” to test bacterial warfare…in San Francisco! They sprayed bacterial agents into the fog over the Bay to “see what would happen.” Sure enough, some people got sick, and one elderly gentleman died. When Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review, discovered this through the Freedom of Information Act he wrote a stinging essay in the magazine.He said, “We are outraged, and we should be; but we have to realize that these are the wages of violence. You cannot authorize a group to go out and defend you with military force and expect that that force will never come home to roost.”
This is the lesson we again seem to not to be learning from the violence – all of it, on both sides – unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri. Yes, what Officer Wilson apparently did on the night of August 9th was outrageous, inexcusable. I say “apparently’” because at this time controversy and contradictory reports are still swirling and it may be a while before we know – if we ever do – the truth. But even when we do, and no matter what it is, there is a deeper truth to which the mainstream media will never direct us to, and will, in fact, obscure by their attention to details and particulars of this event as though it occurred in a vacuum. What I’m thinking of here goes even beyond the racial tensions underlying the scenario of the white officer and black victim.
The deeper, uncomfortable truth is, we will never see the end of these confrontations and this violence and this anguish (if you have seen the interviews of Michael Brown’s mother you know what I mean) until and unless we realize that we are creating a violent culture and set our faces against it. The militarization of our police force is but one inevitable step in a long process that involves the promotion of violence for “entertainment,” violence as the only escape from the unfulfilling, if not hopeless lives that many lead in a materialistic culture, and violence as the means to stem the tide of that violence which is thus created. Once you let the genii of violence out of the jar you cannot order it to attack only this or that person, within this or that guideline.
The only real escape from the wrenching destruction of the social fabric of Ferguson, of the lives of Michael Brown’s parents and so many like them, is to turn away from unleashing the influence of violence in the first place. And the only way that I know of to do that, realistically, is to create its alternatives on every level: media that celebrate the spiritual potential of the human being, the wonders of creation, and the innate longing for and capacity for peace in every one of us.