"I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
Oh, but it’s all right, it’s all right
For lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
We’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong--"
CLAYTON, Mo., — A St. Louis County grand jury has brought no criminal charges against Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, more than three months ago in nearby Ferguson.We'll say all the old things tonight, and tomorrow, and thereafter. Or we won't. We'll stay silent, perhaps, and wait for the divide to paper over again. And then we'll pretend it's all right.
At a news conference, the St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert P. McCulloch, said that members of the grand jury deliberated for more than two days before finding that no probable cause existed to file charges against Officer Wilson.
Over 25 days, the grand jury heard more than 70 hours of testimony from 60 witnesses, including three medical examiners, Mr. McCulloch said.
"And I dreamed I was dying
And I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
And I dreamed I was flying
And high above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying--"
And so it goes:
The killing on a residential street in Ferguson set off civil unrest — and a national debate — fueled by protesters’ outrage over what they called a pattern of police brutality against young black men.As a lawyer, I'm supposed to be all reassuring now, I guess. The system has worked. Better that 99 guilty men go free than one innocent man go to jail. We weren't there. You know the drill.
The St. Louis area has been steeped in anxiety as it has waited for a decision by the grand jury, which was made up of nine whites and three blacks and had been meeting on the case since Aug. 20. Around the region, law enforcement authorities were on alert Monday, and the Missouri National Guard stood by as word of the decision began leaking out; political leaders, including Gov. Jay Nixon, held last-minute meetings with community members; and residents, including parents of schoolchildren, braced for what might come next.
Some days those slipshod certainties seem like verities. Some days less so.
It's not that I don't believe in the ideals our system is based on. I devoted three years of my life to it. And winning the ones you shouldn't win was always hard, though not as hard as losing the ones you should have won. And, sometimes, knowing the difference was hardest of all.
This case doesn't feel like it goes in that last category. But it wasn't my case…
Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune
Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right
It’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest.
In the wake of an effective suspension of the First Amendment in Ferguson, one which targeted the media as well as the protesters, what trust can the community there have in the outcome?
How do you bind up a community when there is no confidence in the civil institutions that are created do the binding?
How do you restore a life snuffed out for no good reason?
How do the parents live with their loss?
As to the rest of us, well, as Robert Bolt once wrote: "I’m breathing…are you breathing too? It’s nice, isn’t it? It isn’t difficult to keep alive, friends. Just don’t make trouble. Or if you must make trouble, make the sort of trouble that’s expected."