Ferguson, Mo., or a thousand other towns

Michael Brown might have been a sweet teen trying to carve his way in the world. He might have been a punk spoiling for a fight. I don’t know and can’t pretend to know.

Darren Wilson might be another cowboy with a police-vs.-the-world mindset and an itch to fight. He might be a public servant who now is filled with remorse and sadness. I don’t know and can’t pretend to know.

You don’t know, either. You don’t know what happened on that street that afternoon. You don’t know what happened in that town over many afternoons and nights, and many years. You do know that you can write a narrative to fit your personal or political mindset, based on the fragments of knowledge at hand. Many of you already have done so, and now you’re casting about in search of more fragments to support those beliefs.

But you don’t know what happened — not yet. And honestly, you may never know.

What I think I know is that many simmering grievances in Ferguson have come together in a way that will force people to deal with them. I also suspect that’s not going to work out to anyone’s satisfaction. It rarely does.

Brown might have been a good kid who went all punk-ass for one moment and paid the price. Wilson might be a great cop who went all Full Rambo for one moment and is paying the price. They might have been all of those things, and more, in the minutes that led up to this conflagration. And their actions in those minutes might not be who they are/were at all.

You don’t know these answers, even if you pretend you do. I suggest a strategy: Perhaps you should open your ears and mind to the idea that your prefabricated scenario might be utterly wrong.

That’s an honest way to deal with what happened in Ferguson. And then perhaps — perhaps — you’ll know something.



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