They say that good fences make good neighbors. I say that anger and frustration are just like farts in the wind. Nothing political really matters until people are ready to burn things down. It makes for good dividing lines. The Ferguson mob is a lynch mob, there's no question about that. If they could get their hands on The Man, they would stone him. That's good news. It has clarity. It shows that people actually have the courage of their convictions, they are putting their money where their mouths are. We, at long last, have a proper mob.
When this shitstorm began, I wrote the following:
If the death of one man, by accident, or on purpose causes a neighborhood, community, suburb, town, ghetto or general residential district to break down civility, well I suppose you can call that person a hero by definition. His life is valued higher than law and order. Pinker has words to say on such honor codes. Essentially, they are tribal and inferior to the rule of law. But I've been saying this for years, tribal hierarchies are what people use when democratic institutions fail. Nothing at all surprising at that. What is surprising is the extent to which activists and political plotters and strategists try to co-opt the energy of tribalism and convert it back into democratic institutional power. It's really just swapping one alien committee for another. And of course the big problem is that it doesn't help the honor code or the tribe.
A real pitchfork and torches tribe working the hierarchy is ready, and I mean defiantly, militantly ready, to stare down and shoot down the System. That's what 'by any means necessary' implies, but it always turns out in America that the means of choice is sublimation to the New Committee (which seems always ready to grant permanent seats to Jackson or Sharpton). It almost makes you miss Khalid Muhammad. But the bottom line is, misappropriation of James Baldwin's Fire Next Time notwithstanding, the tribe is going to lose.
I went on to speculate about how the protest train would rumble on in infinite circles. I was wrong. It actually got militant, and so I am pleasantly surprised for the militants. We can look forward to seeing t-shirts that say "I rioted in Ferguson and all I got was this bullet in the shoulder." Non-trivial stuff. But that badge of courage will go to a precious few in the Ferguson tribe, while the complimentary abstracted blather of the rest of the Activist Nation continues. Some props have to go to those who dug into their pockets and made this their Million Man March, went to Ferguson, picked up a torch and burned something down.
I haven't heard of any cops getting shot yet, but I did hear a story of somebody who, brandishing a pistol, got into a car wreck and shot herself in the head. Her video said of the gun 'We're ready for Ferguson'. She gets an E for effort, and a big fat fail for effectiveness. Then again, that can be said for most tribal mobs no matter how many strip malls and car dealerships they manage to burn to ashes.
What we need, right about now, is somebody with a rifle and a can of gasoline to stand up and heroically say "Yeah I did it, and I'd do it again" But we are not yet to that moment. Right now it's all just Anonymous black mobs of rioters and looters and cockeyed shooters and their attending media circus of armchair wannabe vanguardians. I say it should have been Michael Brown's mother, but apparently she would rather be a media star than a soldier. Understandable, but not heroic.
When buildings are burning is the moment for true heroes to be born. We have arrived at that moment. Will it become heroic or just more mindless destruction?
Now it also must be said that a lot of people are asking if the violence is worth it. The answer is yes. But it wasn't until buildings were burning that a sufficient amount of violence has been applied to the standard bullshit rhetoric of the Hate America First contingent. What makes the haters pathetic is their pacifism which undermines the legitimacy of their wordsmithing. What makes the Ferguson mob serious is its willingness to do damage. It doesn't matter that the owner of the bakery was a black woman. What's at stake here is not race so much as justice, and more particularly the failure of democracy to serve the very human ends of the Ferguson mob.
This is what happens when democratic institutions fail.
It happens all the time, all around the world. There is nothing special in that, but here in America it is especially necessary to pay attention when cities are set aflame. That's when the mob gets to play from a position of power. It is the human impulse, as revered and as sacred as the mastery of fire itself. It is a Second Amendment kind of fundamental right, and it is an order of magnitude more important than the talk. It establishes the serious skin in the game for all talk to come and it erases the nonsense of the talk already farted into the wind. Here is the dividing line; the acts that pledge and risk one's life to the cause.
I doubt there will be any hero to emerge from this who can stand on principle and unite the pen and sword. Many who weren't there will try to abstract this into #BlackLivesMatter or #HandsUpDontShoot. Anybody can play the Twitter game - Catching Fire like a holiday movie meme. In the end, it matters mostly to Ferguson and those who live thereabouts. Democracy has failed that little part of the world and they've literally burned a tattoo there. We have a genuine scorched earth reminde. Any headstones will testify permanently. I am reminded, as should we all, that when men are sufficiently provoked, they will demand justice with fire. What will they get? What have they asked for? Who can provide?