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Lessons of Ferguson

If there is any good resulting from the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., perhaps it can be found in some lessons we hopefully have learned as the tragic death of Michael Brown and its consequences which unfolded each night before our eyes. The unarmed teen was shot and killed on August 10 by a local police officer when he allegedly failed to move out of the street, and an altercation between the two ensued. This led to violent protests in the streets of Ferguson, looting and burning of local businesses, and police responding with tear gas, rubber bullets and multiple arrests of protestors. Watching the violence escalate with heavy-handed response and more violence , it was hard to fathom this was happening in a small community in the United States.

As the protestors demanded to be heard, so the police insisted that order be restored to a community torn apart, with both sides expecting respect from each other. And, quite possibly, a lack of that respect- for ourselves, for each other, for human dignity, for human life, and for property is what led to the tragedy.

In a town where the unemployment rate for people over the age of 18 is 50%, and the Police Department is 97% white, racial profiling had previously become an issue in Ferguson. Distrust of the local police by many of the town's residents, coupled with the lack of understanding by members of law enforcement toward its poor, unemployed and non-white citizens, led to confrontations and attacks on both sides, by both sides.

Distrust , misunderstanding and disrespect often leads to violence. And violence begets more violence, which results in tragedy. We need to remember that respect for each other entails responsibility, for ourselves and others.

We need to help make education more affordable and accessible to our citizens. We need to create more and higher paying jobs, to give people a sense of responsibility and respect. We need to ensure our law enforcement officers have additional education and training to understand and communicate with all citizens, and that the police departments reflect the diversity of our American communities , consisting of all races, religions, male, female, gay, straight, etc. And we all need to learn to TALK to each other, to COMMUNICATE with each other, and most importantly, to LISTEN to one another to UNDERSTAND the human dynamic of each of us. Perhaps then, tragedies like Ferguson and others, can be avoided, and no longer haunt our American conscience.

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