I don’t know what happened to Michael Brown.
Maybe something conclusive — solid, physical evidence, pointing in one direction or another — will come out within 15 minutes of this post’s publication. Maybe it will take another week. Maybe it will be a month. Maybe we’ll never know for sure.
I don’t know when we’ll know, or if we’ll know, or what we’ll know when we know if we ever know.
I don’t know.
But I do know this: it doesn’t much matter anymore.
Sure, it matters in the actual sense. It matters to God. It matters to honest people. It matters to mature adults who just want the truth, and who don’t show up at crime scenes with pom-poms and popcorn, rooting for one side or another to “win.” It matters to the rational, the reasonable, the thoughtful.
But that is a dwindling breed. As it rapidly fades into the ether, we are left with a society populated by frauds who simply don’t care about the truth at all. It’s almost pathological at this point. They don’t hate the truth, necessarily, they just don’t see it as a particularly compelling issue. They cast their die before the facts are known, and stick by their wagers in spite of whatever information comes to light. They play their assigned role in the Great Narrative, and they never, ever, under any circumstance, stray from the script. All of this, of course, perpetuated by a media that establishes its storyline and then “reports” only on events consistent with the plot. Sometimes they make complicated situations simple, and sometimes they make simple situations complicated. Whatever the case, they make it, and then eventually they drop it and move on to the next ratings stunt.
So that’s why, to many people, it doesn’t matter what actually happened to Michael Brown. This isn’t about Michael Brown anymore. It never was, really. It’s about a narrative — a story — and Michael Brown is useful so long as he serves it.
Does anyone think the protestors will go home and apologize if the officer is vindicated by the evidence? Will MSNBC retract every reckless conjecture and misleading statement? Will Al Sharpton shout “my bad,” and head home, never again to descend like a despicable vulture whenever news cameras and racial tensions meet? Will the looters return their stolen merchandise? Will the Twitter prognosticators tweet out their mea culpas? Will social media be flooded with humbled and humiliated concessions?
If Christ Himself spoke from the heavens and contradicted the established mainstream narrative, is there any way that any of these things would happen as a result?
No, definitely not. They’d just accuse Jesus of getting His facts from Fox News.
But maybe those who’ve rushed to judgment will finally, for once, get to puff up their chests and tell us that they told us so. Maybe they’ll be proven right. Maybe. I don’t know.
I’m willing to say I don’t know, even if it robs me of the opportunity to brag that “I was right from the beginning.”
The problem is that there’s little risk in being rash and reckless. These days, nobody remembers anything that happened before yesterday, nor dwells on anything once it stops trending on Twitter. Therefore, you can be wrong a hundred times a day, you can prophesy and proclaim and accuse, you can do it all without a modicum of reason or integrity, and you will never be held accountable for it. Your credibility is only ever damaged when you stray from the Established Truth, but not when you stray from the Actual Truth.
So this probably won’t do any good, but I’d like to try to break through this wall of false certainty. It’s not that I want to convince you to take a different side; I just want to convince you that you shouldn’t be on anyone’s side right now. I can only prove that nothing’s been proven. I can only show that not enough has been shown. Do what you will with the information — or rather the lack of information — but you must at least consider this:
– Michael Brown was shot six times, twice in the head. Much is being made of the fact that the officer hit him with six bullets, but there is nothing that can be immediately gleaned from this. Despite what you’ve been told, six shots are not automatically “excessive.” It’s particularly relevant in this case to note that Brown was shot in the arm several times, and that the first five wounds were survivable. This could mean that the cop riddled an innocent man with bullets, or it could mean that the cop was shooting at an aggressive, charging suspect, and he had to keep shooting until the suspect went down.
Police are trained to shoot “center mass,” which means they shoot until the threat is neutralized. Sometimes this takes two shots, sometimes six, sometimes ten, sometimes more. Sometimes they go overboard, but nobody with firearm experience would tell you that there’s any clear bullet limit; a number that, when reached, immediately renders each subsequent bullet “excessive.”
Really, what’s the thought process here? If (notice, “IF”) Brown was on the attack, are we now saying that the cop should have fired a predetermined “reasonable” quantity of bullets, and then, if the suspect was still coming after him, he should have holstered his gun and ran for the hills, all in the name of meeting the media’s bullet quota?
This isn’t Hollywood. You can’t take everyone down with one shot.
The number of bullets only matters if certain circumstances are in play; specifically, the circumstance where Brown was surrendering. But if Brown was surrendering then it doesn’t matter if he was shot once or a dozen times, the officer would be guilty of murder. Either way, harping on the number of bullets inflames emotions and does nothing to enlighten or clarify.
– Michael Brown was unarmed. This is relevant, but it doesn’t conclusively tell us anything. The way people are carrying on, you’d think there’s never a time when an unarmed man could pose a lethal threat to an armed man. Leftwing blogs have spent all week telling us that unarmed people are shot by police officers on a relatively frequent basis. They’re right, but they’re wrong when they try to paint this dynamic in a cartoonish, simplistic, “cops are always bad and racist, and suspects are always good and innocent” light. There are many reasons why a law enforcement officer might have cause to shoot an unarmed man — the first being the rather obvious fact that cops don’t always know that the unarmed man is an unarmed man.
Are we really now suggesting that police officers should wait until they’re shot at to shoot back? What sort of maniac would ever become a cop if he had to adhere to those regulations? Being a police officer can be dangerous work; I, for one, don’t think it ought to be suicidal.
Another convincing reason to shoot an unarmed man might be when the man in question is about the size of a professional offensive lineman. Michael Brown was 6’4″ and close to 300 pounds, which makes him only a bit smaller than the average guard or tackle at this year’s NFL scouting combine.
Have you ever been physically assaulted by a 300 pound man? I haven’t, but I’m willing to believe that the experience could be fatal.
Now, if Brown was shot with his hands up, or if Brown was shot while fleeing, then his size is of no consequence. But it’s hard to believe that so many people truly think his size was of no consequence even if he was attempting to attack the officer.
There’s another point that must be raised here: nobody has any right to physically assault another human being, including a cop. Moreover, nobody, including a cop, has any responsibility to get pummeled or throttled by an assailant. If you try to harm an armed man or woman, you might get shot. This is not cruelty. This is self-preservation, and it is just. Again, we don’t know that Brown showed any hostility at all. If he didn’t, then Officer Wilson should be charged and tried. But I’m disturbed by the amount of people who seem to believe that, even if Brown did attack, he didn’t “deserve” to get shot.
It’s not about what the assailants deserve. It’s about what the assailed deserve. And they deserve to protect themselves. IF Brown had already assaulted the officer and tried to steal his gun, and IF the officer pointed his gun at Brown and yelled at him to freeze, and IF Brown ignored that command and rushed towards the officer, as an alleged friend of Officer Wilson claims, then of course the officer would be justified in using lethal force. What else would he do? Quickly put his gun away, grab a taser, and wait for the charging, gigantic individual to be close enough to hopefully subdue? That’s just not how it works, it’s not what any sane law enforcement officer would do, and it isn’t what you would do, either.
– There are eye witnesses. This is important, but it’s not as clear cut as some would like it to be.
Our primary witness is Dorian Johnson, Brown’s friend, and, as we later discovered, suspected accomplice in the robbery that occurred minutes earlier (more on that later). Even before looking at the autopsy report, we can already use rational thought to discern a few things about Johnson’s account: 1) Apart from the officer and Brown himself, Johnson had the best view of the whole ordeal. This makes his account very important. 2) He is going to be (understandably) biased. His friend was killed. Not only was his friend killed, but, according to some versions of the event, Johnson was also involved in the altercation with the cop. 3) He claims that Officer Wilson grabbed Brown by the throat from inside his cruiser. It’s incredible to think that Wilson would try to subdue a 6’4″ man in that fashion. It’s certainly unlike any police procedure I’ve ever heard of.
There is at least one detail in Johnson’s account that we now know to be inaccurate. Johnson claimed that Brown was shot in the back. The private autopsy commission by Brown’s family shows that all of the bullets entered through the front of the body, and none hit him in the back. The county’s report says the same.
Brown’s family says one of the wounds to the arm could still indicate that Brown was shot from behind. This is possible, I suppose, but it’s hardly the confirmation you’d expect after a week of being told that Brown was shot and killed while running away.
The other narrative is that Brown was shot with his hands up. The bullet wounds don’t shed any light on that, one way or another:
Another witness also claims that Brown was shot from behind, but her story contradicts the unseen man in a YouTube video, who can be heard recounting the event moments after it occurred. He seems to suggest that Brown turned and charged at Officer Wilson, and was shot in the process. “The next thing I know, he comes back towards them. The police had his guns drawn on him.”
Eye witnesses are notoriously unreliable, even more so amidst a politically and ideologically fueled mass media frenzy.
– Michael Brown allegedly committed a “strong arm robbery” moments prior to his fatal encounter with police. Despite the near-unanimous consent of pundits and social media “experts,” this fact does matter.
You’ve probably heard people insist that “just because Brown stole some cigars doesn’t mean he should have been shot.” This is a classic example of a straw man argument. Nobody is saying that the revelation of Brown’s cigar-heist somehow makes this shooting justified. That is not the point. That’s not the argument.
The point is that Brown didn’t just “shoplift,” like many dishonest folks have claimed. He walked into a convenience store, brazenly grabbed merchandise from the counter, and then, when confronted, grabbed an old man by the shirt collar and pushed him to the side:
This isn’t some teenager sneaking a pack of gum into the pockets of his cargo shorts. This is a blatant act of completely unnecessary and unwarranted hostility. Grabbing a little old guy by the neck and shoving him aside? How can any honest person pretend that such an act doesn’t indicate a bit of a bully streak (to say the least)?
If Brown was willing to walk into a store and push an old man around for no reason it lends credibility to the notion that, perhaps, he might have picked a fight with a cop.
It doesn’t prove anything, but it does add another dimension to the situation. A dimension that no thinking person would ignore. I’d say his very recent history of vicious behavior is much more relevant than even the fact that Brown had marijuana in his system at the time of the incident.
I ask you this: what if Officer Wilson had pushed around a black teen earlier in the day? Actually, forget earlier in the day, what if video surfaced of him picking on a black kid a year or more before? Do you think all of these people crying “character assassination” would still be singing the same tune?
Of course not. Nor should they.
You don’t generally saunter into the one stop down the street, smack the clerk around just for the hell of it, and then carry on with your day being an otherwise gentle and affable fellow.
But what do I know?
I don’t know. You don’t know.
Maybe the officer is a cold blooded killer. Maybe he gunned down a teenager in the middle of the street, in broad daylight, while the innocent kid had his hands up and shouted “don’t shoot.” Maybe this cop decided to throw his entire life away because he was angry, or racist, or insane. That seems implausible, but then it seems implausible that anyone would come charging at a police officer while the officer is pointing a gun right at him. Both extreme ends of this scenario just sound unlikely, but not impossible.
So maybe the truth is in between. Maybe Brown attacked the cop and went for his gun, but then retreated, and maybe the cop panicked and started firing, and maybe Brown got angry and turned around and charged at him, and maybe he was shot and disabled, but the cop kept shooting. Or maybe the officer instigated the entire altercation. Or maybe the officer just asked him to get out of the street and Brown decided to be a tough guy. Or maybe none of these hypotheticals are true.
Maybe the Officer is a murderer, or maybe he’s a good man whose life is now ruined through no fault of his own. Or maybe he’s a good man but an incompetent police office who lost control and overreacted. Maybe Brown was a good man who was viciously gunned down in his prime. Or maybe he was a hostile bully who thought he could assault a cop and walk away unscathed. Or maybe he was a good man who sometimes did stupid things, and this whole situation just got out of control.
Maybe, I don’t know.
Are you confused yet?
I hope so, because that’s the point.
You don’t know, and even what you think you know you don’t really know.
And one day, when we do know, you can come back here and tell me that you always knew, and that I should have known.
I’m sure a lot of people will do just that.
But, then again, I don’t know.
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