Ferguson, Missouri – As fires burned and shots rang out the president called upon the nation to engage in calm, peaceful protest and substantive discourse. The split screen shot of these simultaneous events was as telling as it was chilling. The “haves, “cool, calm and collected, patiently seeking peaceful dialogue and reasonable solutions to the nation’s inequality. The “have nots,” tired of broken promises, angered by a future that offers nothing but more of the same. Everybody is talking. Nobody is listening.
This is what despair looks like. This is what happens when all sense of hope is swallowed up by hopelessness.
There is a deep, deep divide in this country; a divide that runs not only along racial barriers but socio-economic barriers as well. Those at the top of the pyramid reap more and more of society’s benefits while those at the bottom sink deeper and deeper into despair. Middle class parents once believed that their children would live a better life than they did. Now they pray that their kids can maintain the status quo.
Over the next several weeks and months the media will debate the circumstances surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown. They will dissect every comma, semi-colon and period of the testimony given to the grand jury. The “haves” will argue that justice has been served. The “have nots” will respond with charges of race. The debate is valid; but it misses the bigger point.
Ferguson is not just about race. It is about the ever widening gap of inequality between the “haves” and “have nots.” It is about what happens when the equality gap is so wide that those at the bottom lose all hope of ever reaching the top.
A democracy cannot survive if those at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid have zero prospects for a better future. Violence and anarchy will eventually bring it to its knees. Inequality in this country is growing at an alarming rate. If we fail to find ways to narrow that gap, events such as those occurring today in Ferguson will no longer be a media sensation.
They will become the norm.