Ferguson, MI – Several cities in these United States have been deemed war-like zones. “Chiraq” (Chicago) and “Killadelphia” (Philadelphia) come to mind immediately, but Ferguson is the latest to join the list. With each day turning up new allegations in the Mike Brown shooting, tensions have returned at an all-time high. At this point the National Guard has been called in to regain some form of order after video of a robbery suspect, allegedly Brown, was released by police. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon describes the release of the video as the Ferguson Police Department’s attempt to “Besmirch the victim of a shooting.” Others have speculated that the video’s effect has caused protests to once again become violent when they’d once been peaceful. One thing’s for sure: things have gotten all too real for residents of the Ferguson community, and the rest of the country for that matter. As emotions run red hot, the streets here have become nearly as tense as that of Syria, the Ukraine, and Gaza City, leading to a very “Purge-like” response from those charged with keeping the peace.
The difference between America and the aforementioned is this country’s history with civil combat. It’s been noted on an international level with historical moments like the Civil Rights Movement, the Kent State shooting of student protesters, and an identical attack at Jackson State College just 11 days later. The Kent State and Jackson State protest shootings took place under order of the National Guard during anti-Vietnam demonstrations. We also cannot forget the ongoing tensions the same organization allegedly caused in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and other events not to be overlooked.
With the tendency to overthrow due process, is it really a good idea to bring the National Guard into Ferguson’s tense environment? I ask that based on precedence, as a “civilization” such as ours—the most powerful in the world—should be fully capable of maintaining order during times of civil unrest without infringing on human rights and due process.
Let’s take into consideration the role of the National Guard. They are an extension of the military with drills scheduled just one weekend out of every month. Once a year, annual training is held for two weeks. The rest of the time, the men and women whose oath is to do “Whatever is needed, wherever it is needed” are ordinary civilians like you and I who lead ordinary lives on a daily basis. Just like everyone else, their views are shaped by social affairs and even the media. That being said, when members do use their part-time military training in the event of an emergency, they practically have to remove themselves from reality and develop a mission-oriented frame of mind. In effect, logic may be present but it is executed much differently.
In a recent conversation with a friend, the concept that cops are “just people too” came up. His point was that if officers are loosely trained in the academy, when real life situations occur and an officer encounters a suspect, or someone they may already have a skewed perception of, poor judgment may ensue. I immediately took his argument as a lame excuse and rebutted that innocent children in war zones are perfect for target practice too then, right? My point is that civil unrest should not give way to irrational behavior on the part of those whose job is to protect and defend.
Authoritative brutality counteracts a peaceful end because there is little to no trust between the defenseless and the defenders. Martial law never resulted in anything but bloodshed; the Lord of the Flies mentality triggers an every-man-for-himself syndrome. The morals of right and wrong, lawful or unjust are much too blurry to limbo under, but even when they are visible, individuals will interpret them differently. It is simply matter of human experience.
I personally loathe the concept of movies like The Purge because they resemble scenarios that are not too unlikely considering the current state of the world. Perils of the end justifying the means are endless, so where does that leave us? Hopefully not with another historical onslaught of government-ordained anarchy before some divine force touches down and settles the waters.
Aisha A. Boyd is a connoisseur of all things relevant to the undiluted palate. Follow her on Twitter @theQueenPen (Aisha Ayana) and look out for her exciting upcoming blog.