Ferguson, Missouri – August 2014, the shooting and killing of teenager Michael Brown, the tragic loss of an important life, as are the lives of all has been characterized as a “race” issue. It is Déjà vu – 1960s United States, when race and civil rights dominated domestic political issues – ultimately the country enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights movement also placed in momentum events that would lead to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy, respectively.
The “Race” societal issue identifier is part of what we have seen in Ferguson, the media, activists and politicians have all made this the issue of prominence. But there have been other issues – issues that resonate deeper to the foundations of a democratic society and leap-claw beyond the sovereignty of Ferguson County and the state of Missouri to the extended boundaries of sea to shining sea.
At risk are fundamentals that quake the essentials of a democratic and free society. We have seen issues arise of journalist claims of police brutality and possible infringement of First Amendment rights – ‘freedom of press’ and an Orwellian foretelling, the militarization of law enforcement in the claim of public safety.
All these issues are critically important and without compromise or excuse fundamental to a society born from a document of profound and basic liberties, freedoms and assertions of self- determination, novel concepts for its place, and constricts of political realities of the time, that document is the Declaration of Independence.
Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776. In Congress.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
The Declaration is NOT a document of legal authority as many misguidedly believe and assert – BUT it is the document that sets the philosophical framework for the legal doctrine, the Constitution of the United States. The former is what allegiance is sworn to.
Both documents lay forth the essence of human and civil rights –
The vital cornerstone of any democratic society is where no man is above the law – indeed where the law is supreme provided its enactment is resolved through informed debate, discussion and a vote representative of the people. In order for the system to work – the people MUST engage in the political process – only by doing so does the best possible system of government continue in its strive for near perfect governance – we call this democracy. Failure of participation places the entrustment of governance to those whose interest generally do not represent nor are in congruence to the wishes of the people.
If to look at the race card – then ask the question, Why were there no African Americans on the council of Ferguson County when the population is overwhelming African-American. Why has the African-American population failed to present candidates for election? If there have been African-American candidates standing for the council why were they not elected? The questions can go on … . But the necessity for engagement of people in community government is warranted for the preservation of law and for the equal application of law. Engagement in the process would place notice to those in governance that their positions are only temporal. That by engagement representation is obtained not only in the council but in other municipal agencies like the Police Department.
The best political systems fail for the very simple reality of incapability, incapacity for any number of reason of the people placed in entrusted positions of governance. The American democratic system prides itself on the principles of a government obliged in law and practice to ‘Checks and Balances’ – that only works when there is a willingness and actionability of doing the checking otherwise one is left with imbalance.
What Ferguson has shown is failure of constituency engagement in the political process, programming failure of people provided guns and badges – asked to swear to protect and preserve the law, and have no clue as to the principle of the law. Licensed thuggery is not law enforcement. The failure of vigilance to democratic freedoms all leading to the ultimate price – loss of life, as in this case the shooting and killing of an unarmed youth. Yes, the race matters, more importantly each life matters.