Monday, August 18, 2014

The Abdication of Responsibility

I admit that I never heard the hoopla.  I'm catching up well after the fact.  Perhaps that's a good thing; initial reports so often are fast and inaccurate.  Still, it was a bit disconcerting to find out how much I had missed.

No, Brother informed me, Ferguson was not a person.

Rather, it was a town in turmoil.  I'd been in total baby mode; the news which interested me was related to a seven pound human.  If it wasn't FJ-centric, I didn't notice it.  The kids, used to catching up on current events on their phones, never had the news on the television. Newspapers are an anachronism in their suburban neighborhood.  I listened to country music on their XM radio in the car.  I was cut off.  I didn't care.

Then, the kids went out on a post-baby-first-date.  Brother and I were providing child care; once FJ fell asleep and the left-over pizza was boxed up in the refrigerator, I put Daddooooo's favorite talking head, Gwen Ifill, on the screen.

Forty minutes later, I stopped listening and began fuming.

I listened to talking heads debate the merits of reallocating Iraq war machines to local police departments. Free toys for big boys.... what else will we do with them... they are frightening in a ring city outside St. Louis ... I still didn't know what all the fuss was about.  They'd moved on to analysis.  I was in search of facts.

So, I surfed the interwebs.  I found video of a big guy pushing a little guy.  I read his name has not been released on the scroll beneath the video of young people walking with their arms upraised, in surrender. Their faces did not reflect the passivity of their poses.  I went to The Times of London's coverage, hoping that distance would bring perspective.

I went searching for information, for something upon which to base an opinion.  I could feel the outrage.  I could imagine the fear.  I agreed with Brenda Starr that The Media and The Police and The Protesters were figments of the public imagination, that each broad category was made up of distinct individuals, that painting a picture with a broad brush was unfortunate, insulting, and lazy behavior.  I'm making her stance more stridently than she did.  By the time I got to her post on Facebook, my brains were exploding.

No one could tell me what happened.  The crime scene was destroyed.  Public officials were opaque in their statements.  The shining light in all of this, Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ronald Johnson, left me, for a moment or two, with a smile.  He took responsibility.  He apologized.  He worked the crowd.  He was one of them. Those were facts I could hold onto.

And then I found another fact.  The Ferguson Public Schools are now unaccredited.  It just happened and it was coming for a while and it's been happening in a number of districts around St. Louis and those are all facts but what really got me was what it said to the kids and what it said about the grown ups.

I can't imagine that happening when parents are involved.  I cannot imagine a situation where the education offered by a public school district and accepted by the families who attend does not meet the basic standards set by the state... and where, unlike Arizona's policy that, as Brenda Starr opined over omelettes this morning, allows you to open a charter school in an abandoned Dunkin Donut shop, those options are not as easily attainable ... and where surrounding districts have the option to refuse students whose parents are invested enough to try an inter-district transfer.

If we treat kids like trash, how dare we expect them to shine as adults.

If we don't provide the basics, the things we watch Sally Struthers cry about with third world babies crawling at her feet, if we are so inured to the inevitability of poverty and rage without looking at the most basic underpinnings, if we can't send them into the future with the tools they need to survive, then I don't see how we can complain when they act out.

I hate that this is the fact I found.


  1. This article will make you see red:

    1. Is the school board president an elected official? That's where this might start to change. FYI, we had to rent our gowns for HS and college graduations... then and now. Perhaps an inundation of those gowns which were not returned and are still living in graduates' closets might help awaken some sense of involvement and investment? It's not just money....


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