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 Blooming Stars

Ferguson Break-Down of Law and Order

            Ferguson, Missouri, USA, a suburb of Saint Louis, about two miles away from Siddhashram Center for Realization where I reside presently, has attracted unwanted attention from all over the world on account of painful events unfolding there in the last 10 days. Years ago, a psychiatrist friend and I had a clinic in that town where we treated emotionally disturbed persons? As I am at the ashram in solitude and retreat, events there have deeply troubled me. A brief description of events, not necessarily in chronological order, follows. On August 11, 2014, an unarmed 18-year old African-American (black) Mike Brown was shot dead in Ferguson by a white police officer. The officer fired more than 6 times. The circumstances that led to the shooting are not clear. Three independent investigations are going on. Demonstrations of protesters into the shooting demanding action against the police officer as well as the release of his name followed.

            When the name of the police officer was released after a few days, some footage of Mike Brown stealing an item worth more than $40 (Rs. 2400) from a store nearby and shoving a store-attendant, who tried to stop him, before the shooting was released. The robbing and the shooting were not related as the officer did not know of the robbery before the shooting incident. During the several days of ongoing demonstrations, mostly after dark into late night, confrontations between protesters and police, violence, looting of shops, and destruction of property took place. Initial hard-line tactics by the police was replaced by a softer approach which was taken advantage of by criminal elements to loot and destroy property extensively. The store-owners felt they were not protected by the police from the looters. To control violence, highway patrol, and later on national guards were called. Curfew also was imposed from midnight to 5 am. It may be important to note that while Ferguson has about 70% of blacks, and only 3 out of 53 police officers are black.

            What lessons can we learn from these happenings? Not releasing available information by the police department early on did not help. Demonstrations needed to be orderly and peaceful. Demonstrations and protests need to be non-violent; they need to stop once a fair process to redress complaints and grievances has been instituted. Protesters had a duty to stop opportunists and criminals from hijacking peaceful protests. The intentions of some of the protesters were questionable. Police officers need to be trained in human relations, diffusing tensions, and impulse control.

            Blacks have legitimate grievances. They are racially profiled. They are more frequently stopped and searched. Their civil rights are more frequently violated. They have fewer opportunities for economic advancement. I wish the enormous amount of money spent in waging war by the previous president in Iraq, for instance, were spent in improving the quality of life of the blacks and the poor in the inner city and the poor neighborhoods. While the blacks have legitimate grievances against racist elements in a white society, they are their own worst enemies. They need to take responsibility for the violence and killings they perpetrate on themselves. Recently a black woman walking with her grandchildren was caught in a cross-fire between two rival black gangs and killed in north Saint Louis.

            Ten years before I came to the USA in 1974, there was segregation. Civil rights laws granting civil rights to blacks were passed only in 1965 after considerable violence. Since then we have enormous progress. We even have a black president. The American society still has a long way to go. I have experienced discriminations from whites as well as blacks. There are also Indians who are covertly racists. I must also say that my experience in general with the police has not been good. America needs to do a thorough soul-searching and reorder its priorities. It does not have a healthy life-style. Over seventy percent of its population, for instance, is overweight or obese. Its constant and unhealthy anxiety or preoccupation with things such as security, weight-loss, erectile dysfunction, suing others, and looks need to go. Coming out of its smug self-complacence and an air of superiority, it needs to lay the foundation for healthy spirituality and human relations from a global perspective and value system.

 

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