Monthly Archives: November 2014

Civil Rights

What happened in Ferguson was not civil and it was not right. What happened in Ferguson was the collapse of civil order and a cascade into chaos. It’s cause was both simple and serious. it was all around “disrespect”. The black community (for the most part) feels disrespected. A civil society is based on respect. I respect you. You respect me. When that simple rule is broken, civility is broken. Standing up in the classroom when the teacher walks in, taking off your hat in the elevator or giving up your seat for a woman on the city bus, or GIs watching their language when “there’s a lady present,” were unwritten rules of civility of an era bygone. We used to say “yes Ma’am” and “yes Sir.” But even in the “good ‘ole days” it was not always so.

The Civil Rights Movement demanded that the politeness of a genteel society went both ways across a racial divide. Jim Crow disrespected a whole race of people. Changing that was not easy. Fairness said it was not only the black man who should say “Yes, sir” to the policeman, but the policeman should also address every black man as “Sir.” The Civil Rights movement demanded equality, justice, and respect. Today, disrespect rules.

Disrespect coats everything with a filthy film, like the soot from an old smoke stack of a Pennsylvania steel mill. It’s in the music, on the street, and in the air. It was center stage in Ferguson where, if we paid close attention, we might all get a good look ourselves and at the New America. In Ferguson there was no respect for the law, for the police, for private property, for authority, for the Grand Jury, and as it turned out no respect for life. Police have forgotten that they are “Civil Servants.”

Being “disrespected” on a daily basis is what many black people experience every day. Feeling disrespected is as painful as a slave owner’s whip. Most black people have just quietly endured the indignities. There is also the indignity of financial poverty and the poverty that comes from the lack of self-respect. To disrespect someone is to devalue them, to deny their worth, and disavow them. The pain and shame caused by such a disrespect can inflict an almost irreparable damage to the soul of a person or a whole community. Resentment can slowly build in such a wounded spirit until it erupts in ways that can be anything from suicidal to incendiary.

A perceived injustice often leads to a remedy that creates another injustice. That is why one war’s end is just the beginning of the next war. One disrespect leads to another, and to another, and to another, into a cascade of chaos. In Ferguson there was enough disrespect to go around. There every law of God was broken. All Ten Commandments were smashed before the first plate glass window was shattered. There was disrespect for property, authority, for parents, truth and life itself.

Disrespect begins with disrespect for God. A reverence for God keeps us from breaking into our neighbor’s house or business to steal his “stuff.” Disrespect for God is the first cataract in the descending cascade which always ends in calamity and chaos. Other cataracts are immorality, infidelity, idolatry, and cynicism (each breaking God’s plate glass windows).

Educators, politicians, and police forces are just some of “all the King’s horses, and all the King’s men” who are trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. They can’t. Our leaders are talking about change and managing bad behavior. They will try everything from smoke grenades, and greenbacks, to hand-outs and hand-ups. Without God things will only get worse.

Reverence is the fountain of respect. Remove the first commandment and the Temple of Trust becomes a flimsy house of cards. It will collapse. Remove the first commandment and you will spend a fortune trying to enforce the remaining nine (thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not lie, etc). Where there is no fear of God (reverence) there is a lot to be afraid of. Where there is reverence for God there is good. From reverence flows respect, and from that, not only a reason to be civil, but also to do what’s right. –Ingimar DeRidder