The Department of Justice may not have a legal case to pursue the shooting death of Michael Brown, but the Ferguson, Mo incident, which sparked massive outrage across the nation for months in 2014, has brought to light a culture where abuse of power and discrimination reign. Where statistics may not be able to convince skeptics that institutionalized racism is the problem in Ferguson, emails of public officials ridiculing blacks and plotting to fine more people simply to raise revenue, alongside stories of trumped up charges largely made against blacks, demonstrates racism and abuse are deeply entrenched in the culture of the Ferguson government.
Because local officials are closer to the people they serve, local authorities can be more responsive to the needs of their constituents than state, national, and international governments. Unfortunately, a lack of adequate scrutiny on a regular basis leaves local governments susceptible to those who abuse government to serve their own agendas. Where national governments can suffer from a lack of understanding, empathy, and consequences when it comes to constituent interests due to distance and the diversity of their constituents, local governments can become just as unresponsive to the interests of their constituents when there are cultural barriers that separate those in power from those they are supposed to serve.
In many respects, racism in places like Ferguson actually has nothing to do with racism. When people do wrong, do not know how to respond to a wrong, or feel threatened if they confront those doing wrong, they tend to justify why someone is being mistreated. When discussing issues like the abuse of civil penalties or code enforcement as part of a revenue-raising scheme, the poor and otherwise defenseless are targeted, because their inability to afford a legal defense against such charges and vulnerable social position means they are less likely to fight back when wronged. In turn, authorities slander and demonize these people in order to justify their mistreatment of them, which reinforces the division between these disenfranchised groups and the more affluent.
Beyond Ferguson and abusive governance, this pattern can be seen throughout all of human civilization. It is not just blacks and other minorities who suffer from efforts to legitimize the mistreatment of them nor is it just the poor inside the United States. Those who benefit from the marginalization of others, whether it is those who mistreat others to secure their authority or those who do not stand against such wrongs in order to preserve their own socioeconomic status, can found throughout the world. It is, of course, far easier to call people lazy rather than to create jobs that provide for their needs while it is just as easy to say, “nothing can be done,” rather than to defend someone.
Recognizing this human flaw, terrorist groups like the Islamic State and tyrannical governments, such as many of those in the Middle East, China, and Russia, can be thoroughly brazen when it comes to victimizing the weak, because those who can intervene are more likely to justify why they cannot intervene than to actually stand up for what is beneficial to all. Those who victimize others for their own gain need only to justify their behavior to those who might undermine their agenda and sufficiently intimidate others so they will legitimize the behavior of the victimizers.
Back inside the United States, Republicans are failing, as expected, to force President Obama and Congressional Democrats to accept Republican legislation that aims to undermine the President’s priorities. In the minds of Republicans, the need to show unquestioned loyalty to Israel is seen as a way of discrediting Democrats, however, this view fails to recognize changes in the Middle East and the reality that Americans are increasingly against costly interventions that tend to create more problems than they solve. Meanwhile, Conservative attempts to use the Supreme Court to derail Obamacare by invalidating tax credits for millions is a way of reigniting anger over the landmark healthcare law, yet the American People can only see it as creating problems for them.
In truth, Republicans are managing to brand themselves for the next election through their attempts to “battle Democrats.” Unfortunately, they are doing it by dividing the country while short-circuiting the legislative process. For decades, the Republican versus Democrat, Conservative versus Liberal artificial “war” has helped candidates on both sides of the aisle win elections. In their efforts to demonize each other and use their legislative efforts to manipulate voter opinion, they have managed to create an elite-controlled political class that has created more problems than it has solved. Just as in Ferguson, elitist rationales that justify the abuse of governing institutions are the problem.
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