Historians know there was no love lost among the Founding Fathers. Truth be told, they were at each others’ throats for many years establishing the foundations that led to the rights and liberties that endure today. Those freedoms include the right to petition our government over grievances — and the right of peaceful protest.
The yesteryear revolution against British tyranny stands unique in our history, and I believe it exceeds any of the tumult faced in modern America, including the strife we witnessed this past month in Ferguson, Mo.
Still, we can, and must, learn from history past and present.
As bad as the events are surrounding the shooting death of Michael Brown by a local police officer, the events that followed were equal in ignominy, and Ferguson will be picking itself up for years to come.
Much of the mistrust, misstep and misdeed that brewed in the shooting’s aftermath was fed by too much social media and not nearly enough dignified communication.
How much the flare-up was fueled by the likes of Facebook “friends” has been the subject of speculation, but I think the tragedy was made worse by the rabble-rousers from across the country, bent on deepening the chaos here. They were on their way before the first TV cameras were broadcasting, thanks to the rapid-fire nature of social media.
Twitter is not always civil, and this community desperately needs civility.
Like most people, I watched from a distance and drew my own conclusions. The best and worst things I saw both had to do with groups of people collaborating in a cause. On one extreme was the looting and destruction. On the other, were the kindly groups who showed up at dawn to clean up the damage.
The Ferguson Market & Liquor, which featured so prominently in a month’s worth of news, offered one of the most ironic, thought-provoking messages of all. “Thank you for your love and support, Ferguson,” said the note spray-painted on a plywood sheet covering a broken window.
There are things that each of us should hope to learn in life, and I thought of three that have served me well through the years. They all came to mind during the shooting’s aftermath.
One is, don’t flout authority. The police — though obviously not perfect — are here to protect us.
Second is, treat people with dignity. You’ll be amazed the respect you get in return.
The third is, act like you’ve got common sense. You’ll appear wise beyond your years.
I’ll credit my mother for most of that wisdom. My mom — a native of Ferguson, Mo.
A wise man will tell you that a shrill voice is always heard, but a reasonable voice gets an ear. That was dramatized tenfold in the amount of respect paid to Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who barely raised his voice and drove home his point time after time.
The Michael Brown case is far from over. Local and federal investigations must be allowed to run their course. That’s part of the legal framework honored by the very Constitution that protects us despite our differences.
Whether or not the good eventually outweighs the bad will depend on the city’s residents. There’s a lot of ground to make up, and clearheaded communication, not pointless confrontation, will go a long way.
There are some challenging days ahead. Progress is possible but only if Ferguson residents work together on solutions.
Dennis Grubaugh is editor and partner of the Illinois Business Journal.