Sunday, August 17, 2014

Healing in Ferguson

A suburb of St Louis is in turmoil over the shooting of a young African American man by a White police officer.  There has been protesting and strong police response.  People are angry and afraid.  The young man's family is angry at what seems to be the senseless death of a much-loved son.  The officer, his family, and the police department, along with the community at large, are afraid of what may happen next.  

There are so many questions in this story.  What if a young man with a solid past and a promising future took things a little too far and stole some cigars?  What if he and a friend are later stopped by a police officer for something unrelated, like walking down the middle of a street?  What if this normally well-behaved young man gets scared?  He has heard stories of police brutality and abuse of power, and he doesn't want his promising future to go down the drain over a few cigars.  What if the police officer, also with a solid past and a promising future, comes upon two young men walking down the middle of the street?  What if he has never had to draw his weapon in the line of duty and has no reason to believe he will need it, but he has heard stories of routine traffic stops turning into shootouts?  What if he, like every officer, is just a little scared, a little keyed-up as he approaches the two young men?  What if they are nervous because they think they are being stopped for the robbery?  What if the officer notices their nervousness and it ratchets up his nerves?  What if everyone is pulled taut before the interaction even begins?  What if something happens in that moment that causes everyone to react on reflex?  What if no one has time to think through consequences?  What if that flinch, that sound, that look causes a moment of panic?  What if that moment forever irrevocably alters the futures of two families?

There is no second chance this time, there is only the way forward.  The way forward, the way of healing, I believe, is first between two men, two families.  True healing must begin in a room with a grieving father and a broken-hearted police officer.  Two families must find the strength to lay anger, fear, confusion, frustration, sorrow, guilt, bitterness, and truth on the table and mourn together the unspeakable tragedy of those few moments that changed everything for all of them.  

True healing will never take place behind walls of lawyers and spokespeople.  Those of us on the outside looking in can argue until the end of time about things like whether young Mr Brown was a thug or Officer Wilson was a racist, but that is all it will ever be, an argument without end.

The unavoidable truth in this tragedy is neither the Brown family nor the Wilson family will heal completely without the other.  They are now bonded forever.  The Browns need Officer Wilson's broken heart and Officer Wilson needs forgiveness from the Browns.  Try to imagine how much such healing between two broken families could change this story from one of conflict to one of reconciliation for a community, a city, maybe even a nation.  

May God grant these two hurting families the strength, resolve, and courage to do what seems impossible and may they find peace in the midst of this storm.

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