Thursday, August 14, 2014

Living In Fear

My heart is heavy again tonight.  I've had trouble really sleeping these past two nights.  I'm uneasy.  I am working hard to fight against anxiety.  I do not want to give in to the fear that in years past would have crippled me.  Battling anxiety, fear and paranoia for much of my life, what is happening right now in my community is unsettling, to say the least.

In my previous post, I wrote about the need for peace.  That we need to run after peace.

It seems that there are still large groups of people completely unwilling to live at peace with one another.

Maybe I'm naive.  I'm sure you'll tell me if I am.  But when five days have gone by and there is still unrest and protesting, some turning to violence, I stand behind the police using the means within their possession to protect the city once the sun goes down.

And you can't trust the media.  So who knows what really happened.  Who knows for sure exactly what happened between Michael Brown and the police officer who shot him?  Here's who know with certainty:  Michael Brown.  The officer.  God.  NO ONE else knows the MOTIVES behind what occurred in Ferguson over the weekend.

And while the city and police have allowed PEACEFUL protesting during the day, as is our right as Americans, if violence ensues, you can no longer call it peaceful.  Honestly I think peaceful protest is an oxymoron.  Is it peaceful to assemble in a highly charged area and chant?  What makes it peaceful?  The fact that you aren't firing a weapon or hurting another person physically?  Isn't it really all about semantics?  Peaceful protest to me would be taking the anger and passion and feelings of injustice, and getting down on my knees in my home or in my church and praying.

I know that the majority of people on both sides of the story are well-intentioned.  The public, the people, are in pain.  They are angry.  They want answers.  They want to make sense of what may be a senseless act of violence.  They want to protest without knowing with certainty that the officer was conducting himself in a manner that violated the rights of the young man.  The officers want to protect the public and keep the peace.

Maybe you'll disagree with me.  Maybe you're on the side who hate the police and their tactics.  But the police serve a function in our communities.  If someone is standing on my lawn protesting, while it may be within my rights to take action against them (though it probably isn't), I would actually rather lock myself and my family up in my home and pray for peace.

But that is because I am a civilian and it is not my civic duty to ensure the safety of my neighborhood.  It is my responsibility to care for my family, and keeping them AWAY from the turmoil is the safest thing I can do for them.

So, the police are within their rights, as protectors of our cities, to do what they can to maintain peace.  And let me clarify that I am speaking to their actions now, AFTER Michael Brown's death.  I can't say what led up to the altercation or how it played out, or whether the officer acted outside of his duties as an officer of the law and protector of the people.  Maybe he was protecting himself.  Or maybe he was violent and made mistakes.  Who am I to say one way or the other?  I don't know the man.

But what is happening right now, this rioting and looting, this vandalism and "peaceful protesting" - OBVIOUSLY it is NOT helping.  If your true intent is to protest peacefully, and you can see that what you are doing is only adding to the problem and not helping, at what point will you step back and consider that there may be a better way?  There may be something else that you can do to help promote peace.

Not all protesting out there in Ferguson is about peace.  There are accounts of violence on both sides - an officer with a broken ankle because a civilian threw a brick at him.  People fleeing down the streets they were told to get off of because tear gas was used.  Civilians injured by rubber bullets.  I'm a law abiding citizen.  If I were standing there gawking at the scene of a horrific crime or tragedy, or if I thought I was within my rights to protest, and was even told by the police/city that I could protest in the day time, while it was still light out, it is just common sense that once the sun goes down, I should go home.  There has been violence and fear and for lack of a better word "drama" each night as the sun has gone down.

People can now use darkness as a means to get retribution.  So if the police ask protesters to stop protesting, knowing that things could escalate as it gets dark, and the people CHOOSE to disobey what they are being asked to do, why is there this huge outcry and sense of injustice when the police take action against those who didn't listen to what they were told to do to begin with?

I've seen some writing about Marshall law and how people should be told it was going to be put into play, but feeling like until that is "official" then they don't have to really obey the authorities.  Where is the common sense?

Someone posted a picture on Facebook of a woman holding a young girl's hand, maybe 3 years old, rushing away from a line of officers in full gear with shields and said something about how this girl will grow up viewing the police.  And I sit here shaking my head and wondering why the parent would choose to bring her child to a place SO CLOSE to where all of the unrest is happening.  I get that you likely live in the area, and you just wanted to get your kid a happy meal.  And the police evacuated the area, so you have to leave and this is what your child sees.  But you didn't have to choose to take your young child and expose them to what is going on in this area.

We shouldn't live in fear.  So, it isn't unreasonable to think you should be able to go to a McDonald's on West Florissant Rd. to have a quick bite to eat.  But in the wake of what is happening right now and doesn't seem to be calming down, WHY WOULD YOU?  I need to make an exchange at Walmart and the closest one to my house happens to be the one that was looted.  So, I am going to use some common sense here and either not make my return right now while tensions are high, or choose one of the many other Walmarts that are not close to my home.

And yet, there are threats of unrest in the surrounding areas as well, specifically the St. Charles county area and down by the Galleria Mall.  No where near Ferguson.  People are trying to spread this drama and sense of fear all across the St. Louis area.  And then it'll all get blamed on Ferguson.  There are a lot of great people that live in the Ferguson area.  I have a feeling that some of the protesters may not even be residents of Ferguson.  How will spreading this fear around throughout the city of Ferguson and surrounding suburbs in St. Louis solve anything?  I was nervous today when I went into the QuikTrip on McDonnell Blvd.  Even though it isn't in Ferguson.  There were employees in their red shirts at the entrances as well as at the counters, which was either coincidence or preventative measures that QT decided to take at other locations to ensure that their store isn't looted then set on fire.

The fear is spreading.  The uneasiness follows us.  It doesn't go away simply because I happen to live in Hazelwood, and not Ferguson.  It's far reaching.  Friends in St. Charles County have had their employers close businesses because of threats.  The Galleria in Brentwood was shut down because of altercations there, allegedly all relating to this police shooting.  These areas are in opposite directions and at least 20 minutes away from the area this tragedy took place.  So there is this underlying fear that it will only spread into more communities.  I shouldn't have to be afraid to leave my house.  I shouldn't have to worry that the trip I need to make to the grocery store may wind up more eventful than I would like it to be.

And in the end, none of this changes what happens.

It doesn't change the fact that a police officer shot a man.

It doesn't change the fact that the young man died from those gunshot wounds.

The fallout from all of this will not change the event that happened over the weekend.

And perhaps the protesters believe that what they are doing will change something.  Maybe it will.  Maybe it won't.  It's unlikely that it will.  To some, they look like heroes.  To others, they look like fools.  But in the end, if there is corruption in the Ferguson police department (which from what I can tell is the assumption here), will looting stores and setting them on fire bring about change?  From what I have read, there have been accusations against this police department for some time about how they treat people and how it may not be fair or what's right.  Again, I can't know one way or the other.  But the fallout from this awful tragedy, the continued uneasiness during the day and the complete unrest at night isn't going to change anything for the better.

Why are so many people surprised that there is an almost military-like presence in the Ferguson area right now?  I mean, seriously.  Look at what has unfolded over the last five days.  I think I'd be more terrified if there wasn't a strong police presence and they were not armed for any eventuality.  When people are angry and volatile, and distrusting, wouldn't you also want to take every precaution necessary to protect the community at large?

The moment the looting began, this stopped being about Michael Brown and the officer who shot him.  Some of the protesters believe that this is all about that, and about past issues in the area concerning the police - but ultimately, it's just people making a choice to make it about themselves.  About the change they want.  About the retribution.  What good is it going to do for people to know the identity of the officer who shot the young man?  Will it bring the young man back?  Will it bring peace to the family and the community?  Or, if it is confirmed that he was white, and his name is given out, will it further perpetuate what is happening in Ferguson and other areas of St. Louis?  I get that people want answers.  I get that people feel it is within their rights to have all of the information.  I just don't see what practical purpose the information will have for anyone.  There is a reason they withhold this information.

There has already been civil unrest, rioting, looting, violence.  Of course the police are leery - of course they fear that releasing this information will further fuel the hatred and retaliation against this individual and possibly his family.  It isn't just about the police trying to protect one of their own.  It's a decision made because they believe it the best way to ensure that no one else is killed because of this.  Threatening the life of this officer and his family will not bring back Michael Brown.  It will not ease the pain that his family is going through.  It will not solve anything.  Knowing the answers will not make it all better.  It could, in fact, make the entire situation so much worse.

I sit here at 4:30am, unable to sleep for the second night in a row, and so I'm just trying to process some of this.  I can see both sides here.  I can see how the family is hurting and they want answers.  And I believe the family of Michael Brown does deserve to know what happened and who was involved.  BUT THE COMMUNITY DOES NOT NEED THIS INFORMATION.  Focus on the word NEED there.  If it were my son, I would want to know who had done it.  You need information for closure.  But the community outcry to know who the officer was is essentially a call for blood.  I just cannot fathom any other reason why the community at large needs to know his name or his race.  I don't believe it's about cover up, though I know there are those who believe keeping this information back from the public is basically Ferguson saying "Yeah, we made a BIG mistake and we just want to keep it hidden from you."  I just don't buy that.  I believe that they are trying to protect human lives and prevent even more bloodshed.  The rioting and looting have shown what people will do in response to the death of this young man.  What happens when the officer is identified, if these same people decide to take matters into their own hands?  Will knowing his name put your mind at ease and finally cause you to just go home and try to live at peace with those around you?

Do you think that there aren't officers in Ferguson and throughout the city of St. Louis who aren't grieved by what happened?  Even if the officer who shot Michael Brown was in the wrong, it doesn't define the police department in Ferguson, or the police as a whole.  Just as those looting and rioting and raging against "the man" do not define the city and the people of Ferguson.  Here's the truth.  There are GOOD police officers out there.  And there are GOOD citizens in the city of Ferguson.  And all of this is just so senseless.

Some individuals have just chosen to make this about their own personal agenda, some personal vendetta, and some are just idiots and are using a senseless tragedy to get some free beer.  If giving you beer and cigarettes is really what you wanted, for crying out loud - I would have rather shelled out the money myself than have you loot a city because you believe the police are corrupt.  It doesn't put you (the looters) in a good light at all.  And it doesn't prove that there is corruption in the police department.  It just proves that you are selfish and chose to use a tragedy to act like a fool and break the law.  And as a mother, when I see a video of the looting of that QuikTrip, and I see people milling about and find that there is a man holding what appears to be an 18 month old child in his arms just watching it happen, I have to wonder what on earth is wrong with people?  It's bad enough that the looting and subsequent fire happened.  But to stand there with your baby watching it?  Where is the sense in that???

I know I just rambled on...but all of this is making it difficult for me to not go back to the pills.  The pills being the Xanax that I took for so many years to manage my anxiety.  I do not want to live in fear.  I did that for far too long.  I want to be able to go to the store and not worry that something bad will happen in the wake of this tragedy.  And so I move forward.  For me to set that fear aside and walk into QuikTrip today-that was HUGE.  Because 3 years ago, addicted to Xanax, I would not have dared.  I would have been too terrified.  But I am learning that God is my medication-God is what I need to manage my anxiety.  God and his promises to me are what keep me from giving in to the fear that is so ready to overwhelm me.  Knowing that God loves me, and understanding just a glimpse of how deep his love is for me, that is what propels me forward in faith, not fear.  Perfect love drives out fear.  And God is that perfect love.  I have a choice to make.  Fear or faith.   I choose faith.

And I pray for this city I live in and love.  I pray for peace and protection, and for the call for vengeance to end.  I pray for all of the officers out there doing all that they can to protect other lives from being taken.  I pray for those who are angry and bitter and filled with hate, that God will begin to break down the walls in their hearts.  Change doesn't happen because people protest and riot.  Change happens in the heart.  One heart at a time.  And if you are a Christian, you are called to live at peace with everyone.  Judgement day is coming, and the only true and fair judge is God himself.  He is the only one who can be trusted in all of this.

A friend of mine shared this on Facebook a couple days ago and it has stuck with me.  "Faith isn't a lack of is choosing to believe God is bigger than the fear."  Today, I choose to believe that God is bigger than the fear.  Because the truth is I do still feel fearful.  But in faith, I choose to believe that God is bigger than any fear that I may feel.


  1. While the circumstances are tremendously difficult to watch unfold, I thank God for the reminder that this is not our home. He is coming again but until that day there will be violence and hate. This event has pushed so many into division and fear, but for some of us God has used it to remind us how great our need is for him. Those that are pressing into Him are growing and becoming stronger. We are uniting and spreading love and hope to those around us through the prayers and actions. We must find joy in the trials because the bring perseverance to make it through all the other trials we face. When we have perseverance we become mature and complete. We are able to love and forgive as God has for us. It also gives us wisdom. We are no longer blind to the issues around us and throughout the world. We see how God longs for things to be. We are strangers in this world just passing through. God's grace was sufficient to help us through past trials and we have to trust that His grace is sufficient for us today.

    Father God, I lift up Jamie to you. I pray that you seek her out in her anxiety. I pray that she sees the good you are creating from this situation. I pray that you protect her heart from frustration and anger but instead give her grace and love for those who are making poor choices. I thank you for her transparency and honesty about her thoughts and feelings. Put a hedge of protection around her family and home. Use this time to bring her to a deeper understanding of you and your power. Father God, show her how to not live in fear but rather as a light and testament to your amazing abilities. We know that you are able to do all things and to bring restoration to impossible circumstances and we pray that you do that in St.Louis. Lord you are just and all knowing, I pray that you bring justice to those who need it and soften their hearts to have forgiveness. I pray that you God will get ALL the glory. Amen