e pluribus non unum
Writing on Monday evening an hour before the Grand Jury announcement in Ferguson, Missouri, I see that for all our progress over the past sixty years, we're as racially divided as ever, people no less susceptible to being whipped into mob frenzy, media more untrustworthy and ever more unbalanced in presenting biased. CNN, which for years I’ve relied on as a primary news source, has so sickened and disgusted me with the slant of their reporting on this case that from now on I will be wary of everything they say. I've changed the television channel this evening as a sane alternative to throwing a brick through the screen.
Deeper than I knew, more utter than I realized, our racial divide is no mere point of view, but tectonic plates that grind and snap, erupt. Both sides are certain. One knows the system works, other knows the system aligned against them. On both sides, people who know nothing whatsoever have the strongest feelings in the world about what should be done. What seems so obvious to me is not to others, to whom precisely the opposite is so obvious. One side seems rational based on experience in the society, the other side emotional based on experience in the society. The experience is opposite, the societies are not the same, we do not speak the same language or see the same facts, we are as different Americas as the divides in the MiddleEast, theirs religious and historical, ours racial and experiential.
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It is done: eight o’clock come and gone, prosecutor’s statement masterfully presented, media questions to him posturing, shameless goading. I watched on two channels, one I once trusted, the other not, one rabid, one maddenly reasoned. Monday evening I may have learned more about myself than anything else, more than I cared to know, that I have fought with myself and lost, the battle done. I refuse to let it be so.
Watching now, too early Tuesday morning, two memories come to mind from past national crises in my lifetime. One, as our resigned president flew into exile and disgrace, is watching President-For-But-A-Moment Gerald Ford say “Ladies and gentlemen, our system works.” I am relieved to see that the system does work, works as intended, as it should, in justice, not in acquiescence to and appeasement of mobs. The other memory is from the Pentagon watching across the Potomac River as Washington burns and mobs loot after the assassination of MLK. This morning as Ferguson burns the same mobs loot, smash store windows and race home with a new television set, suggesting that for some this is what it was all about after all.
From total naivete I see an America that seethes and stews and hates in what I had thought was progress. In time, short order, it will calm down and the media will turn to other goading and all will return to normal until this time next year.
I would say my heart is broken, but the truth is that it is inured as I see again: sadly, I do not understand and may never from the America in which I abide. We are not one.