Us vs. Them

In books there is almost always an Us and a Them. Us is the perspective the book is told from. It’s the right side, the side that you are supposed to be rooting for. Us is the protagonist, the hero, the heroine. Them is the person or group of people that Us is fighting against. Them is the antagonist, the wrong side, the villain.

Us vs Them creates conflict, which is what stories are built on.

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Unfortunately, we also have Us vs Them in real life, and real life is rarely as clear cut as books like to show. We have it in religion and politics. We create sides among businesses, between socio-economic classes and between races. We shouldn’t, but we do.

Sometimes I feel like the media is just another author, pitting one group against another for the sake of a riveting story. You want to know which characters are the most fun to write? Villains. What fun the media must have as they take turns casting one side as the villain and then the other.

A grand jury verdict came down yesterday for the case in Ferguson. As with any verdict, one side is relieved, vindicated, the winner. The other side is confused, upset, and left to continue mourning. The law is far from perfect. Law enforcement, lawyers and judges do the best they can. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they get it wrong. And sometimes there may not be a right and wrong, just two sides to a story. I’m not going to speculate on which category the Ferguson verdict falls into. I am in no way qualified to make that judgement.

Now that the verdict has come, those who are dissatisfied are reacting. They are responding with pain and grief. Their pain is real. Their grief is real. I mourn with them, and any who lose loved ones. But does continuing the fight between Us and Them accomplish anything?

I lived in St. Louis. I spent my (awkward and often difficult) high school years there. I have friends and family scattered throughout the city. The conflict between those who agree with yesterday’s verdict and those who don’t has resulted in rioting and violence in a city that I love.

I know that those who mourn feel the pain acutely because from their perspective, it was unjustified violence that caused Michael Brown’s death. They want justice for him. Of course they do. They feel like the law has failed them and they want to do something about it.

I just don’t understand how more unjustified violence will make it right, or do any good at all. The people in Ferguson and the surrounding areas are not the perpetrator, so why are they being punished? Michael’s mother is left without her child. I cannot imagine that pain. But what if this rioting results in more parents losing children? More children losing parents? Will that solve the problem? Will it make anything right?

Becoming the perpetrator of the crime you abhor will never make anything right.

If those who feel that justice has not been served feel the need to strive for a different outcome, I’m in no position to tell them not to. But punishing innocent people is not justice. It makes for a good headline but is that what we want to be?

My wish is that we can all strive for compassion and that we can stop allowing the media to turn us into characters for the stories they sell.

 

*I hope it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. I do not wish to vilify the media. Not all media outlets or journalists are doing this. But the ones that are seem to be the loudest. To the fair and fact-based journalists: keep fighting the good fight.

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