Thanksgiving is over in post-Ferguson America, and it can’t come too soon. A national celebration of country, family and freedom from want follows on the heels of protests, frenzied media, and the deployment of the National Guard over the failure of a grand jury to indict a police officer over the shooting of 18-year old Michael Brown. In an America deeply divided over race and debate over individual character vs. systems, bad apples vs. rigged games, the long dawn of Advent has begun. Thank God.
I attended a rally last week in Athens, Georgia, expressing unity with the protestors in Ferguson after the failure to indict Darren Wilson. People gathered peacefully, even quietly, and held up signs. The protestors stood in quiet conversations, some with candles, some with children in arms, a mix of white and black and Latina/o.
The first speaker to address the crowd was Alvin Sheets, president of our local NAACP chapter. He thanked us for standing with the people of Ferguson and reminded us of the plight of black Americans, both recently and throughout U.S. history, and the great poverty that many in our own community face. As Sheets’s speech drew to a close, he turned to religion: he expressed his belief that the church needs revival.
These are wise words from Chris Rock, words that bring to mind the point often made by Ta-Nehisi Coates, among others: that while race may be a construct, this doesn’t change the all-too-clear reality of racism.
European countries are asking how to deal with hundreds of young Muslims who went to Syria to fight and then returned home. Denmark is experimenting with rehabilitation rather than incarceration. Returning fighters are treated not as criminals but as troubled youth who lost their way and need a second chance. The program, first used with neo-Nazi youth, is voluntary and includes counseling, mentoring, opportunities for more schooling, and meetings with parents. So far the program seems to be working. Denmark has the second highest number of foreign fighters per capita. They “only become ticking bombs if we don’t integrate them” back into society, said a Danish psychologist (New York Times, December 13).