I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City Newspress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week's column, it's called "What if it were my son?"
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about what’s been going on in Ferguson, MO. The facts as we know them are that, 18 year old, Michael Brown was shot and killed in the middle of the street by police officer Darren Wilson. This incident has sparked outrage and protests by the local community, social media, and a strong response from the Ferguson and St. Louis County police, the National Guard has even been called in.
This situation has sparked a lot of conversation on social media, in coffee shops, and on the news.
I’ve read articles calling the victim a criminal, calling for the police officer’s head, talking about racial injustice, talking about looters and thugs. It almost seemed like it was happening on another planet. Here in Nebraska City we read about what goes on in Ferguson or Lincoln or Omaha and think, “I’m glad that’s not here.” It all seemed a little distant to me.
You see I have two children, they’re young (2 and 4 to be exact), but I tried to step back from the shouting about this unfortunate tragedy of the death of a young man and the life altering decisions of the police officer.
I started to think what I would do, if my son were shot by a police officer. What would be my response? What would the response of the community be? What response would I want from the police? What kind of support would I need?
On some level, I guess I’m glad it wasn’t my child, it wasn’t in my community, it wasn’t in my home.
I started to think about what would happen if one of our 89 recent high school graduates, many of whom you know, was shot and killed by one of the 14 sworn and dedicated police officers, most you probably know, in the middle of Central Avenue?
I’m not asking about justifiable use of force, I’m not asking about right or wrong, I’m asking about your response to that tragedy.
Would you be in the streets asking questions? Would you stand up to people who told you your son probably deserved it? Would you stand up and defend the officer knowing they were a good person?
For me, if it were my son, or one of our students, I’d go knocking on doors for answers. I’d go wherever and whenever to demand that someone tell me what happened. That someone explain to me how a young person can be dead in the middle of the street. If I felt like someone was trying to intimidate me, I’d dig in my heels.
My father has a mantra, that I’ve taken on as well, “No one messes with my family.” and I guess I might define family a little more broadly than some. Mike Brown is my family, Darren Wilson is my family, the protestors are my family, the police are my family, we are family.
I think we do a good job of separating “our” kids from “their” kids or “our” response from “their” response. Ultimately, I believe that we are inextricably tied to each other. We are tied to the people grieving in Missouri, we are tied to those in North Omaha, in Lincoln, in Falls City, and to those here in our own city.
I don’t know all the facts about the tragedy that is the death of Mike Brown. I don’t know if we will ever know, but what I do know is that I hope when tragedy strikes here in Nebraska City, I can count on my neighbors to stand with me to seek justice and reconciliation for our community.
I’ll close with a quote from one of my favorite pastors, Mr. Rogers:
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say, "It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem." Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. I hope to share with you some of my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.
Favorite: Taking my kids to see a movie and dreaming about new events coming to Nebraska City.
Not Favorite: The continued unrest in Ferguson and the vitriol in which people speak to one another about it, especially on social media.