I like to leave the front door of my condo open as much as I can. When I look outside I see something like this:
It’s nice. I don’t like being a prisoner of the air conditioning. I like to live in the world. This part of the year in Phoenix, if you want to do something outside you’d better get it done before 8 AM or so. The sun is brutal. After 8 AM, you find a cool place and lie low like an insect under a rock. You avoid the brutal world that wants to sear you and shrivel you up without a second thought — as though you were the enemy.
But it’s this time of the year when cooler moments peek through now and then, reminding us of how nice it is during the six other months when it’s not blistering hot. There are little encouraging hints that we are still human under all this, and will emerge to live in the world again sometime soon– likely within the next sixty days or so. The world will welcome us back after recognizing our humanity.
And so there’s news from Ferguson, Missouri. Some genius within the state or federal government (it’s pretty inconceivable the local constabulary could think of such a thing, based on what I’ve seen) decided to try de-escalating the situation with the rioters there. They’re doing this by removing the soldiers from the streets and replacing them with peacetime authority figures. It helps that in a predominately black community the main authority figure they selected is also black. There are reports that tensions have eased. “Almost celebratory” some have said.
If this is so, then it’s safe to say this: All it took to stem chaos was to treat others like human beings. And really, that’s all it took from the beginning.
Unfortunately, unarmed people are sometimes mistakenly shot by the police. Authority figures expressing shared grief and allowing the community its anger usually lets the venom drain. Deploying special forces is usually the wrong thing to do, though it does allow the pudgy boys in their camo the chance to play with their toys and act out their dominance fantasies.
In this case, it finally took dropping the act of the all-conquering and brutal sun and acting more like a fellow man. It took the expression of hints of humanity.
But that’s not the current default reaction.
The militarized police who have received over half a billion dollar’s worth of military equipment over the last few years, as well as training in crowd control and occupation techniques from the Israelis. They don’t default to treating others like human beings. They’ve been trained — meaning given new reflexes — in ways that are proper to a conquering army.
See: The police maintain the peace, given the rule of law. The army kills people and breaks things when it’s decided we need people killed and things broken. There’s a difference. But at times, that difference seems irrevocably lost.
We now sit waiting for the next Ferguson, the one that will get out of hand before anyone remembers to assume humanity and try fellowship instead of dominance.
So I’m in my condo. It’s a cheerful Friday. There are hints of humanity. It will still get to 104 degrees in Phoenix today. But that’s less than it was in July. I’m not so quick to shut the door on the way in and out anymore. I’m taking more time to look at the flowers just outside my door. But I still can’t leave the door open. I know it’s not over yet.
Not by a long shot.