One of the most frustrating thoughts for me about the mess in MO is that for every person each side of the nightly confrontations-and-worse, there are at least ten people at home nearby, huddled with their hands over their ears, or listening all too alertly for much too long, hoping it will all go away. Armed or not, if the mob turns on them, it may not matter much.
And everyone -- all of us -- see it through a filter, ours and whatever else gets by unawares, and so it becomes a story about police militarization, opportunistic criminals, about the way a young African-American can't get a break or why hitting a cop is a majorly bad idea, about racism or stateism, about people too ready to protest without knowing the facts or cops too ready to escalate, on and on, yadda-yadda and somewhere in there are four-year-olds who don't know why Mommy is so scared or how come there's shouting outside at night. And y'know what? I think that's who the story is really about, and and we're not gonna find out how it turns out for another fifteen or twenty years.
That is, we won't find out for that long unless one side or another manages to burn the place to the ground along with innocent bystanders stuck in the middle, Moms and children included.
Oh, I'm not claiming moral equivalence, I'm not even really telling you "think of the children" (if Mom had any sense, she'd be getting out of town by daylight -- though how would you feel if that was your house and your kid and your long walk to the Greyhound station?). The various police agencies involved haven't been saints and some of them have been well less than clever, but they're largely reactive and are, at least in the long term, accountable and could even be made to sweat considerably by the kind of legal and political pressure that could be brought to bear by the dimes and influence of the sheer number of night-time protesters alone...if they were doing something along the lines of stroking the media, lawyering up and renting a few politicians instead of posturing, throwing things and generally trying to bring back the kind of terror Vikings once brought to the British Isles. But fond though I am of order and quiet, it's costly and difficult to keep when purchased by the blood of brutes and fools -- a well-run police state is quiet and orderly but it's not free.
Ferguson is unwinnable for either of the recognizable sides; only the barbarians can win and their victory will be ash and ruins. If you're on the side of the police or you think Michael Brown was murdered, either way the side you need to be on is the one that involves courts and lawyers, charges and trials. The mess can't be fixed by riots nor by riot police. Maybe the underlying problems can't be fixed at all but they won't play any more sweetly knee-deep in blood.
But as long as every last blind one of us looks at the elephant and imagines it to be like something we think we already understand, it will keep being a problem until the loudest get bored.
7 months ago