I planned to devote this installment of my column to presenting my opinion about the grand jury’s recent decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9.
I am not quite prepared to do that at this time, though – but when I give you my reasons, I feel fairly confident that you will understand and grant me the extra time.
You see, in a very rare gesture, the Grand Jury transcripts have been made available to the general public. There are 24 volumes, and a total of over 4000 pages.
Armed with this vital treasure of information, it would be an injustice to any intellectual thinker to join the thousands if not millions throughout the country who have taken it upon themselves to agree or disagree with the Grand Jury’s decision, based on nothing but innuendo, speculation, emotion, and misinformation.
I refuse to do that. I was not in Ferguson on August 9, and I didn’t see what happened. I do not know if Officer Wilson, as he states, had no choice but to shoot and kill Brown or be killed by him. I do not know if, as others contend, whether Brown did not exert deadly force upon Wilson, and therefore whether Wilson’s force was excessive.
It does not surprise me that the more irresponsible elements of the media fan the flames of this tragedy in order to generate ratings. It also does not surprise me that millions of Americans cling to this story in order to feed their addiction to drama.
You know the types – those who cause traffic jams by rubbernecking – looking across the highway to get a glimpse of the car wreck, just so they have something interesting to talk about later.
And, of course, there are those for whom prejudice is an art form. All they need to see is a “white cop” and a “dead black kid” and they usually fall into one of two counties of Extremia: 1) white cops are all Klan-loving racist pigs who love to go on a black person shooting spree; or 2) all these young, black males are thugs, and they brought it on themselves.
Of course, the rest of us – the rational ones, the thinkers, the grown-ups – do not fall into these two absolutist camps, and instead look at each situation individually. We take a case-by-case basis approach, because not all white cops and not all black kids are the same, much less behave the same.
Is Darren Wilson a killer cop who used his power to take the life of a defenseless young man? Or was Michael Brown a menace to society that could only be subdued by an officer’s bullet? For the answer, I turn to Socrates who, more or less, said: if there is one thing that I know for sure, it is that I know nothing. The Socratic Paradox, that’s called.
In other words, if you’ll pardon the pun, I plead the Fifth. It is premature of me to render an opinion, as I have not yet muddled through the 4000-page testimony. I did get through a good chunk of it over Thanksgiving weekend, but I couldn’t very well get up from a table full of family, and food, and sit in front of my computer and read – for 20 hours at a time!
I know, some have already taken the trouble to summarize the content, but the historian in me tends to gravitate toward primary sources. And so, dear readers, in a couple of weeks, I’ll have it all done.
Does that mean I guarantee that I will render the correct verdict? Goodness, no. I won’t be any less an ordinary, imperfect human being, and my “I wasn’t there to see firsthand so I can’t know for sure” argument will still apply.
At least, however, I hope to have a better handle on the subject, and to be able to make a far more educated guess than the typical speculator. Because I will be one of the very few who has written about the Ferguson shooting who will have read all 4000 pages of testimony before I put pen to paper.
Finally, and though I consider it my obligation to read, analyze, synthesize, and write about this, I still encourage all of you to read it for yourself. After all, unless we arm ourselves with the information, who are we to pass judgment?