Yohannon (yohannon) wrote,

On An Unfortunately Named Town

There's a problem with #Ferguson. Yes, with the town... I'll talk about that in a moment. But also with the hashtag.

You see, sharp eyes twitter and other feed followers might have noticed that it was already being used by people named Ferguson. I believe one of them was a footballer ("Soccer" for the American's who insist that they get to name things -- They cant even bring themselves to call it "european football" much in the way the world calls OUR game "American football"; it also takes out #FergusonRiots as a good tag), another guy had a first name of Craig, and so forth.

But it does help show how a word's meaning can change in an instance. Words that, not very long ago, had no special meaning, words that you couldn't possibly be aware of, suddenly drip with dread as we dare utter their syllables.

And names are the worst. The irony of having a governor ... a REPUBLICAN... [As Elf notes in the comments, Mr. Nixon is a democrat. I think I knew that, but I think Nixon is so ingrained in my mind as a Republican I just magically changed his party for him. Oops!] named Jay Nixon who has openly crafted a career path toward a possible Vice President nomination involved in this story is not lost on me. And yes, I know that the pedants are already screaming "THAT'S NOT IRONY!!" at the screen. Get over yourselves, really.

Watts. Katrina. Loma Prieta. Three Mile Island. And now... Ferguson.

I ran across a couple of notes on that whole odd week in a town that had no murders this year... until last week, when an alleged officer of the law shot down an unarmed boy with his hands in the air. Even then, it might have been status quo if not for the convergence of so many things at once that made this town a crossroads in history. An appropriate phrase, in many respects; a crossroads is in the form of an X, and the spot where it happens should always be marked.

There are two bits of writing, a tweet and an column, that crystallized a lot of my thinking about Ferguson, and why it's become a great big X in history.

First, the tweet:

"Increasingly clear that we witnessed a kind of collective nervous breakdown of white authorities in #Ferguson--fear of subject population."


And the quote:

"But Thursday night, when more than a thousand protesters descended on the remains of QuickTrip – which was burned during riots on Sunday – they had a new leader.

"The man at the front of the march, was Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald S. Johnson, a Ferguson native.

“'I’m not afraid to be in this crowd,' Johnson declared to reporters."

Wesley Lowery (one of the reporters arrested Wednesday night, when it ALL hit the fan)

Fear in Ferguson. There are two recent events that a lot of people have been trying to use to contrast the differences in responses, and yet I believe that the events in question, the recent Clive Bundy Ranch Insurrection and Occupy Wall Street.

The points made are this: In Nevada the Bundy Ranch group, armed to the teeth and pointing semi-automatics at federal officials, nothing happened really. No one was arrested or charged with any of a dozen real, not ticky tacky made up, felonies.

In Occupy, the point is made that people were camping out in the parks for weeks in many cases, again with no real response... until the end.

In Ferguson, a cop murders an unarmed man, and the police responded with overwhelming force to the mere fact that the "subject population" was daring to say that it wasn't okay.

It's that phrase, "subject population" that caught my eye. In this case we were dealing with a town where there was a form of de facto segregation, so the us versus them mentality was already in full swing. A town where, by all accounts, there really wasn't any NEED for the vast amounts of military hardware that should never have been there in the first place. The police had already decided that they were in charge, and the people that they were there to supposedly protect were mere animals to be herded, shocked and awed into submission.

Actually, that isn't correct, as it implies that the authorities got those ideas all by themselves. That there weren't forces and systems that put them in place. After all, how can you explain that, in a town with a 65% black population, that almost the entire police force (including the chief) and the town council (save one) are white? During the newly launched smear campaign against the murdered boy, it was quick to point out that the murderer did not have a disciplinary history. In context, that's more damning than not -- who was going to discipline him for violating the civil rights of animals?

During occupy, the battle lines blurred. Former middle class members, white students, and pretty much a rainbow coalition of occupants -- so we're a step back on the Ghandi Effect, and the authorities tried to laugh it off.

Except that people didn't go home. People started to talk. Organize. Get IDEAS. Dangerous ones, about income inequality... and suddenly we had some new words. The Koch brothers, for example. Words that a lot of people would rather we didn't pay any mind to.

And the end result was the same, next step -- they fought back against the temerity of a people who believed the brochures about America, and had decided to go in a direction that The Powers would rather they didn't.

So out came the rubber bullets, the bean bag guns. Police took off or covered their badges (at which point they are no longer police, they really ARE lawless thugs no better than the Pinkertons who once shot down un-armed strikers at the orders of their 1%-er masters). And they made people disperse... at least, publicly.

And Bundy ranch? Well, the same local law enforcement was on the same side as the insurrectionists, and that was a can of worms that the Feds have, up to know, decided to ignore.

Ignore. Ridicule. Fight.

When people say that the country is the most polarized it's been since the civil war in the 1860's, I sometimes wonder if they really understand the dangers. The people with all the power feel invincible. They have the money, the resources, and the control of the laws and courts. When they see Occupy and Ferguson, they try and stop it with the same impunity they once had.

Bundy? Well, they're the counter-point, the anti-revolutionaries, the collaborators (though I'm fairly certain they won't ever see it that way) with the very forces they think they respect. By pushing back against Ferguson and Occupy, they help justify the existence of the regime.

Unfortunately, much as it's happened before, people start to believe the press you're giving them. In a bizarre full circle, some of the open carry patriots are starting to go to Ferguson... or at least they were, until the governor finally got out of the bathroom he's been hiding in for nearly a week, and a man, armed with a service sidearm snapped securely in it's holster and common street uniform, walked down the street with people who had a real, legitimate reason to bitch.

While the optimist in me would like to think that, at long last, Gov. Nixon developed a sense of shame over what was happening, I suspect the thought that a group of white people with semi-automatics were about to make it a fair fight might have kicked him in the political balls.

I have to imagine that the deepest, darkest nightmare of the Koch's and their ilk is that Occupy, the Ammosexuals, and other groups suddenly realize that they were all fighting the wrong enemies (each other) and start to fight their common foe (the greedy one percenters who can't hear those guillotines off in the distance), either through the political process... or in spite of it.

Because the biggest fear of a subject population is that the subjects realize that they don't have to be subjects any more.

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