There is a lot of anger in Ferguson, Missouri, and much of it understandable. But there is also a lot of spectacle and drama. "Ferguson" has become a rallying cry for hucksters, a ratings point for the media, and a point of argument for friends on social media.
What Ferguson really is, is a deeply wounded city in Missouri. Its citizens are divided; its trust in authority is collapsed; it has one less 18-year-old and an injured policeman. There are no winners in Ferguson, just a lot of tears and heartache.
Most Americans tend to trust and support their police. The men and women in blue keep us safe, patrol our communities, stopping those who would harm us or our property, and work in ever tougher conditions. When news stories about an 18-year-old male, regardless of race, and a police officer enter the conscience, very many Americans tend to take the side of the policeman.
Something was different between Michael Brown and the police in Ferguson. The first reports and eyewitnesses over a period of several days established several key facts. First, Michael Brown had been shot 20 to 30 feet from the officer's car. Second, he had been shot in the back before turning and being shot several more times in the front. That struck many across the country as wrong.
A few days after Michael Brown's death, more facts came out. Michael Brown apparently helped rob a gas station. But the Chief of Police in Ferguson made clear the officer who stopped Michael Brown did not know of the robbery. A few days later, we had new facts.
The police never shot Michael Brown in his back. In fact, new eyewitnesses corroborate the police officer's story. Michael Brown attacked the officer, they struggled for the officer's gun, and the officer shot Michael Brown several times. The autopsy also suggests Michael Brown had drugs in his system at the time of the shooting. But all the facts lead to the same point. Michael Brown is dead, and the police officer received significant injuries in the attack.
At this point, we must wonder why the police took so long to release these facts. But the most incredibly horrifying thing is the number of people who have acted gleeful that the initial reports were wrong. "The thug got what he deserved," wrote more than one person. It is not the sign of a healthy society to be gleeful that an 18-year-old American citizen is now dead.