A long time ago, America was founded on the notion that we were us. And as us, we were not they. They had treated us unfairly, and so we no longer wished to be a part of they. They did not take very kindly to this, and tried to tell us that we were not us. We were they. We did not listen, and so we became us.
Except, even as we were becoming us, we were already busily forming our own new definitions of us and they. We drew a line in the ground and said that below that line, some of us would prosper on the backs of many of they. They could no nothing about it, and it wasn’t until many of us said that some of us could no longer misuse they that we erased the line in the ground.
Here’s the rub, though. We didn’t get rid of the line. We just changed it. Instead of writing it down on the ground, we hid it very carefully in paper. And when it was removed from paper, we made sure it lingered on in the words we use and the lessons we teach our children. It was very important that the line be kept somewhere, anywhere. We needed to keep that line and make sure there is an us, and there is a they. Because if there wasn’t an us and there wasn’t a they, then there would only be us, and can you just imagine? A world with only us? Crazy talk.
When you’re grown and reading this, there will probably be books and books of studies on what happened in Ferguson and what fueled it. Watching it unfold in real time, one of the most troubling aspects of the whole situation is that hardly anyone knows what actually happened between Darrin Wilson and Michael Brown. I won’t get into specifics here. The Internet is good for that, and besides, what has been troubling me about this whole situation is not if Darren Wilson acted justly or if Michael Brown deserved what happened to him.
No. What has been troubling me, itching at me, is the thought of that line.
See, every so often, we like to pretend that the line is gone. That it is not there, and that there is no longer an us and a they. Only us. Every time we do this, something slaps us full on in the face, and draws our attention to a very clear, still very well defined line that we willfully missed. Ferguson has been more than a slap in the face. It’s been mace in the eye, and it’s ugly.
That ugliness is a very good reason why we willfully ignore the line. It’s a devious thing, demanding that we go on one side or the other. Then, once we’re on one side, the voices next to us grow louder, more pervasive. We are clearly on the right side of the line. They are not. We are acting intelligently. They are stupid. We are the best. They are the worst.
The line wants us to see only two colors, black and white, because the line is drab.
It all might change if we could only get rid of the line, Blue. But that’s much easier said than done. It’s been around FOREVER. Practically back to the beginning of time. It’s always been right there, abusing our fearful nature and giving us a false sense of order. If we would only realize there is no us and they, only us, then maybe, just maybe…things like Ferguson wouldn’t happen anymore.
I’m not naïve enough to believe that kids wouldn’t get shot anymore, but I am willing to hope for a future where we don’t burn down towns in lamentation.
In that future, we all mourn the loss of a young life. No riots, looting or burning. No vandalism and no protests in city streets. No tear gas and no violence.
No lines. Just us. Grieving together.
Am I being naïve? You tell me when we get there, Blue.