11/27/14 Non-Observations on Ferguson

I have some enlightening non-observations about Ferguson. Well, an enlightening non-observation is every bit as helpful as some useless observations, at least in my way of thinking, and perhaps not nearly so dangerous.

I wasn’t there when the unfortunate event occurred. I wasn’t there during the first round of protests. I wasn’t on the grand jury. I did not hear the evidence. I only know what has been reported in the media, which includes social media. What I know may not be reliable. What I know may be skewed. What I know may not be the truth. What I know is most likely nothing other than an unfortunate event occurred which angered many people, and this was followed by more unfortunate events.

Therefore, what useful opinions should I share with the world at large through this instant, remarkable forum of social media? How will my opinion benefit you? How will the interests of justice be served with me sharing my opinion about the events of Ferguson which I have no claim to reliably comprehend?

The national media, ever hopeful to boost their ratings, hover nearby hoping to be able to catch some magic footage of mayhem and violence, since, after all, they earn their money by touting their ratings to potential advertisers. Public broadcasters are no better. The better their ratings, the more their underwriters (a fancy name for advertisers) are required to pay. Everyone reporting has some skin in the game, even if their reports are offered to us under the guise of professional journalism. To be blunt, no reporter was sent there under the auspices of hoping you will not watch them. The more sensation, the better the ratings.

I can only hope that the grand jury did its job thoroughly and honestly. I have every reason to think that they did. Had they returned a bill of indictment, and the officer was later acquitted in a trial, would the unrest in Ferguson be any different? As it stands, the officer was simply not indicted. An indictment could later be brought if more evidence comes to light. Federal charges of one sort or another could also be brought, but this appears unlikely, since no prosecutor wants to proceed with a trial if there is not enough evidence to reasonably assure a chance of conviction. I don’t know what the grand jury did in process, though. I don’t know what the witnesses said. There have been reports about what the witnesses testified to, but grand jury proceedings are always done in secret, since they are dealing with issues that revolve around charges against people who are still presumed to be innocent, who may or may not have been charged with a crime; but charges and indictments are two separate things, and a conviction or an acquittal are further removed. Grand jury proceedings have never been transparent. If the authorities find out who has been leaking grand jury information to the public, they should prosecute them. All this paragraph has admitted to is a not-knowing anything about the grand jury proceedings other than what the media has reported through leaks, and the nature of grand juries, themselves. I am no closer to knowing anything worthwhile to share with you about the events of Ferguson, regardless of my best, most earnest contemplation.

Now, I will get on to some observations I do know something about. In the process of thinking about this, I compiled some serious criticisms of social media…but then, as if catching a glimpse of myself in opposing mirrors, I laughed at the stark reality that the only place I can offer them is on social media. The great liberty allowed by the forum of social media is simultaneously a benefit and a curse. A benefit because the voices that can be heard are no longer solely those official voices of commercial media; a curse because the plethora of uninformed voices shout at the top of their lungs things they know nothing about. One thing we have learned, for certain: Liberty without self-discipline soon reveals a fool.

There have been things said, written, and published that went beyond foolish. Some of them have revealed a very ugly nature in humanity that sees injustice in everything, and worse, that sees injustice in nothing. The over-driven amplitude of millions of uninformed voices set up a cacophonous chorus that cannot be intelligently comprehended. Social media allows the amplification of voices striving to be heard over all the other amplified voices. The net result? Boosting the volume improves nothing when you’ve got a built-in bad signal-to-noise ratio; it just hurts your ears. When you raise the signal level, you’re also raising the noise level. Separating the signal from the noise is not an easy task, especially when the signal is buried far down in the mix. Yet, we boost the volume. WE USE ALL CAPS to say nothing at all. We shout when we have nothing worthwhile to say. We hit the share button to share things that reveal what we’d be better off not to reveal. We glory in a unworthy self-righteous indignation. Of course, we can find evidence to support what we believe, especially if we are looking for it. When the evidence is not so handy, it is easily ignored.

Which gets me to this. Being your own writer, editor, and publisher is liberating, and frequently foolish. Sometimes, the most foolish among us seem to have the loudest voice. Of course, I have my opinion about events in Ferguson. I have tried my best to glean the real truth from the many half-truths, but my gleanings have given me nothing reliable. How can they? So, it is best to keep my opinions about actual events to myself, limiting them to my observations on the reporting of the events through news and social media. I can have and share a valid opinion on those things, still serving as my own writer, editor, and publisher, while hopefully not revealing too much of my own foolishness.

Oh, yes! My foolishness is there, but I hope to keep it concealed. The biggest fool is the human who thinks that foolishness cannot overtake him. We can all be fooled. We can all be fools. We can all mistake our own foolishness for veracity. Being earnest never served as a guarantee against foolishness.

The preacher pounded his bible on the lectern as he reached the climax of his sermon. The congregation stirred uneasily, aroused from their preoccupation with the rumblings in their stomachs. He wiped the sweat from his brow as he struggled to make a significant theological point to those who were perhaps less interested in theology than the Sunday pot-luck dinner being served up in the dining hall. They could smell the fried chicken. They could hear the clinking of plates and the tinkling of silverware. The Pavlovian Response had them thinking only of the fried chicken, their salivary glands working overtime. A distant, intellectual Theology had strayed far from their minds.

The preacher, realizing he had lost his congregation needed some sort of recognition. He needed some confirmation that he was getting his message through to his congregation on that Sunday morning, so he turned to the choir just a few feet behind him, not twenty-five or so feet that separated him from the front row of the congregation. The choir was captive.

He ranted, he pounded, his voice rhythmically rising and falling in a cadenced musical lilt. The choir responded by paying rapt attention, which was about all they could do as he was very nearly shouting in their faces. All one hundred and nineteen choir eyes were riveted to his as they leaned forward in their seats, anxiously awaiting the culmination of thirty minutes of theological exposition. There were sixty members in the choir that morning, but Brother Ardis had only one eye as a result of a farm accident nearly fifty years earlier, his patch worn like a badge of honor, making him look like a stern Moshe Dyan with hair. Having the choir thus, the preacher turned back to the congregation and dropped his best theological bomb on them. They just sat there, unmoved.

He dropped it again. Nothing. He dropped it a third time. No response. It was his best sermon. He had taken hours to prepare it, then simmered it to reduce it to a thick broth for the benefit of the people, only to have no response other than their salivating over the fried chicken, the aroma of which was beginning to be noticeable to the preacher, too. He was crushed. He needed to hear an “Amen” badly. None was forthcoming. His countenance fell another notch or two.

The preacher turned to the choir and shouted, “Can I get an ‘AMEN’?”

No response.

“I said, ‘CAN I GET AN AMEN!!!’” Whereupon the choir roused and shouted “AMEN” several times. Upon doing so, the congregation leaped to its feel, with “Amens” and “Hallelujahs” echoing from all parts of the room.

A huge smile beamed on the preacher’s face, and the moment all had hoped for had arrived ever since their first whiff of the fried chicken, as the preacher said, in conclusion, “Let us pray…..”

The choir is always there for you. Preach to them and you can always get an amen. If you get a strong enough one, you may also get to the entire congregation who “amens” what you say so they can hurry and get about the satisfaction of the cravings in their belly.

Hmmmmm! If I start preaching to the choir, maybe I better think of that before I go too far in buffing my smugness until it shines like the 24 karat heavy gold electroplated goblet it really is, which is a mere facsimile of the solid gold it appears to be.

©2014 Mississippi Chris Sharp

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