by Robert Arvay, Contributing Writer
In fiction, the sign above the entrance to Dante’s Inferno (Hell) says, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Perhaps there should be a sign over Ferguson, Missouri that reads, “Abandon all reason, ye who enter here.” Ferguson is, of course, being used in this instance only as a metaphor for the state of race relations in the United States; a hellish state in which it seems that reason has been abandoned in favor of raw emotion.
Ideally, when it is suspected that a crime may have been committed, the general population will demand the facts, and they will base their opinion on those facts. Ideally, the physical evidence will be weighed and the testimony of eye witnesses and experts will be reviewed. In most cases, a broad consensus will be reached, justice will be applied, and people will be satisfied with the outcome.
Every once in awhile, a confluence of events will demolish that ideal, and replace it with rage. Those events include conflicting testimony that sets the stage for confusion, but the stage itself, in Ferguson, is the underlying sense among African-Americans that they are being oppressed by white supremacists who control the power structure.
Pundits and analysts are struggling to find a remedy for this situation, but there is no remedy. When the general public rejects reason and embraces emotion, it will also reject any proposed remedy.
Fortunately, it is only a minority of people, all races included, who resort to violence at the drop of the proverbial hat. Unfortunately, those few create enormous damage, and incite in other people a degree of support for that damage.
Most of us who in our daily lives interact with people of various races will not personally show, nor receive, animosity. We, of all races, are too busy for that, busy at our jobs, busy supporting our families, and busy trying to make a better society. Indeed, one wonders what occupies the daily lives of those who throw flaming bottles of gasoline at the police. At least one recent case involved persons plotting to bomb the famous St Louis arches – they were buying explosives with EBT cards, money provided for the purpose of helping people on welfare. There is a tragic irony in that.
No less ironic is the tragedy that the riots in Ferguson hurt people who were utterly innocent in any aspect of the incident that precipitated the violence. Store owners who served the community, including merchants who are African-American, were victimized by looters and arsonists.
Riot control is no longer a mystery, no longer an art, but is actually a science. It is doubly tragic, therefore, that this science was not applied in Ferguson. Individual policemen are trained in how to handle themselves in a sudden crisis situation involving an armed criminal. This training is based on past experiences, many of which were fatal to police officers. On the larger scale, society by now has accumulated much experience with riots, and there are examples of what works and what does not.
The dynamics of mobs are understood well enough that the state and local governments in Ferguson could have mitigated much of the violence. There are a few individuals who are the leaders and instigators of violence. These people can be identified and detained before they can escalate the violence to crisis proportions. When violence is expected, the public can be warned, the rioters can be warned, and law enforcement can be strategically deployed to defuse the situation and keep it minimal… Innocent people deserve no less than this.
Attempting to reason with unreasonable people is futile.
Explaining facts to people who ignore facts is useless. Logic cannot solve illogical problems.
Strategy and tactics are what is needed, and those are available in published form. Rudolph Giuliani applied them with excellent results when he was mayor of New York City. Government officials who ignore them are in dereliction of duty.
Race relations may be Hell, but if so, this is one Hell that need not burn.