Having grown up in that part of St. Louis, I have a very personal perspective on the whole mess. It was painful to see my hometown being destroyed, but the longer term ramifications are more profound to me. St. Louis is still dealing with racial issues, and my city has become a microcosm for a much larger social problem.
It's too bad people are actually taking "sides" on this, but this is a complicated matter. Is it about Mike Brown and Darren Wilson? Or is it about racism in this city and country? Or does it go even deeper, harking back to deep-seating issues stemming from America's past: from slavery, to segregation, to desegregation, to urban decay, to white flight...we can point to any number of things.
I've taken the time to understand many of the aspects around this matter, and I hope others do the same. I've learned about why prosecutors use grand juries instead of straight up indicting somebody. I learned why cops aren't trained - or even allowed - to intentionally wound somebody. I have not read all 1200 pages of the evidence that was released by the prosecutor, and I doubt any of us will. It's amazing to me, however, the level of unreliability eye witness accounts are.
The day after the first night of rioting after the grand jury decision was announced, I called a couple business owners I know in Ferguson. Both of their businesses were looted and damaged. One of them had to deal with tornado damage just last summer, and now they have to go through it all again. It's sad, since they both employed local people and provided the people of Ferguson with much needed medical services.
With the holiday season in full swing, I hope my city can find a way to learn from all of this and somehow bride that widening gap that has divided us. This issue isn't just a St. Louis thing as evidenced by all the other protests that have sprung up all over the country.
Many St. Louisans are hopeful, are there are signs of love and understanding within this entire hateful mess. It's not easy to ignore all the sensationalism, rash judgments and sweeping generalizations, and the divisive language spoken by a lot of people. I've seen a lot of UGLY here in St. Louis, but I can still hear the voices of those that hope for a better future.
It's that hope we all have left to hang onto.