To the Parents of Children Gassed in Ferguson (I Am Not Sympathetic)

I’ve said it before, but it is not my intention to go around starting fires using this blog.  I try to speak from a place of my own personal experience and to generalize that experience when it’s appropriate to those unlucky souls who read what I write here with any manner of regularity.

That said, there are some things going on in Ferguson that I do feel comfortable making blanket statements about.

Look, what’s going on there is a tragedy and a travesty.  I’m not here to say that justice has gone haywire or that people are overreacting — it’s a capital “B” Bad Situation there right now no matter how you slice it.  That said, what the situation calls for is NOT people across the country jumping immediately to the blind defense of one side or another.  We simply don’t know all the ins and outs and it’s impossible for us to make a judgment on what should or should not be going on there from one day to the next.  But I do know ONE thing that protesters SHOULDN’T be doing, and that’s involving their kids in the protests.

A thing that’s getting a lot of play today is that apparently some children were on the receiving end of teargas used by the police to disperse one of the protesting groups (I’m being really careful not to use the word “mob”, because, again, I’m not there and I don’t know the situation).  And let’s not split hairs: that’s bad.

But.

The subsequent headlines and outrage and villainization of the police on the back of this unfortunate eventuality is all a fraud.  You can’t be mad at the police in this case and this instance because it is not the police force’s fault the kids got gassed.  You just can’t.  Sorry.  I know the narrative is supposed to be that the police are jumping to violence and becoming downright fascist and impinging on human rights down in Ferguson.  And the truth is, maybe they are.  But that’s immaterial in the case of these kids getting gassed.  No, if you’re a parent in Ferguson and your child got gassed, that is your fault.

“But the police shouldn’t be using teargas to break up peaceful protesters!”

Maybe not.  But they have been.  They did it on the first night of protests and they’d done it again since.  What makes you think it’d be any different this time?

“But those protesters were protesting peacefully!”

Maybe they were.  But those protesters are also fully and acutely aware of just how tense the situation is out there.  They know the cops have (and I really wish there were a better metaphor) itchy trigger fingers.  They knew and they know that it can go down at any moment out there.

“But those were just children!”

Maybe so.  But a mob is a mob (again, I’m not saying it was a mob, but I’m saying that the police are treating it like a mob), and when you’re dealing with a mob, you don’t have the luxury of time to say “oh, this person is physically trying to murder me and that one’s leading a hunger strike; let me direct my limited resources at the one that matters”.

No, the onus for any child getting gassed at any of these protests is strictly on the parents.  As a parent, your job, before anything else, is to provide for the safety of your child.  Your kid should have been at home, watching terrible reruns of cartoons you’ve seen hundreds of times, or — and I know this is pretty far out there — in bed, asleep.  Instead, you brought the kid to a protest.  A protest in a city where over the past week a teenager has died, reporters have been arrested, and teargas and rubber bullets have been unleashed on protesters.

Let’s not forget, either, the lunatic selfishness and self-importance that might cause a parent to bring a child to an event like this.  I understand the compulsion, and perhaps even the fervor that makes you feel like you have to be present, that you have to be a part of what’s happening when your community is in turmoil.  Guess what?  Your first job as a parent is keeping your kid safe; you have to either accept that and sit the protest out or embrace the idea that you’re putting your child in harm’s way for your own ideology.  I might as well bring my kid to an industrial finger-slicing factory for the educational possibilities and be angry when my kid sticks his hand in a machine (as kids are wont to do) and gets his fingers lopped off.  It’s not the machine’s fault that YOU put your kid in a dangerous situation.  The machine is just doing what it does.  The police in Ferguson are just doing what they’ve done since this whole mess started.  I’m not saying it’s right; it’s not for me to decide what’s right.  But they’ve been using teargas and rubber bullets since the first night, and you brought your kid to the protest?  You should be arrested for child endangerment.

The righteous indignation over kids being the newest victims of police brutality in Ferguson is as empty as the sympathy-pit in my cold, dead heart for these idiots putting their kids in harm’s way.  News outlets posting that “violence in Ferguson has turned against children” or “children are the latest victims of police aggression” should be ashamed of themselves.  Parents raising hell and boo-hooing and calling for the officers in question to be killed or arrested can likewise go take a hike.  The police are not knowingly firing on children.  They’re firing on a “mob.”  Let’s say you have a delicious piece of cake.  It’s glorious and has just the right amount of buttercream frosting and the cake mix is just delectable; it’s so perfect that no man living could say a cross word against the cake.  You stick the cake into a brown paper bag, light the bag on fire, and ring my doorbell.  I open the door, see a burning bag, and proceed to stomp it into oblivion to extinguish the flame, ruining a perfectly good piece of cake in the process.  You don’t get to paint me as a cake-hater.  The only way you get to say the police are targeting kids is if the police broke into your house where your child was sleeping and gassed him in his bed.

And if the cops did see the kids in the crowd?  Sorry, you still don’t get to villainize them, because now you’re hiding behind the defenseless to deter the threat of violence, which is the most cowardly of cowardly war acts.

Oh, and if you did bring your kids to the protest in the hopes that you would gain more notice for yourself or your cause by involving the kids, shame on you.  Kids don’t have an agenda; kids don’t have the capacity for that stuff.  At best they think it’s some intricate field trip, at worst you’re just indoctrinating them.  And, oh yeah, if you got your kid gassed at the protest you just had to be at, you’ve only taught him to hate cops and by extension all authority figures, which I’m sure is NOT AT THE HEART OF ANY OF SOCIETY’S PROBLEMS.

Let me reiterate that I don’t think the cops are right in this.  I don’t think that they’re wrong either.  It’s not my place to make that call, but if they have received death threats and if the crowds are growing unruly, then I understand their position.  By the same token, I don’t think the protesters are right in this, but I don’t think they’re wrong either.  A member of the community is dead and the police seem to be closing ranks, so I understand their position.  What both sides need is a good solid dose of calm-down juice and probably a more forceful authoritarian force coming in from outside to chill the business out.  Maybe the National Guard can help that today.  Either way, for the love of all that’s holy, leave your kids out of this mess.  They don’t deserve to be on the receiving end of violence that you’re helping to perpetuate, no matter what you believe about this situation.

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About Pavowski

I am a teacher, runner, father, and husband. I am an author-in-progress. I know just enough about a lot of things to get me into a lot of trouble. View all posts by Pavowski

3 responses to “To the Parents of Children Gassed in Ferguson (I Am Not Sympathetic)

  • Mark Baron

    Amen. You capture my sentiments entirely.

    Like

  • alabamablacksnake

    Exactly. The protesters want to be heard, but putting their kids in danger is not the way to do it. There is a lot of anger right now, and until things simmer down, the police are going to be very reactive in order to prevent more chaos in the streets. I’m not saying it’s right either, but you don’t take your kids into that sort of situation.

    Like

    • Pavowski

      Anger leads to poorly-informed decisions which probably lead to more anger, which is really unfortunate. Then again, the whole thing is sticky because the anger is entirely justified (regardless of what actually happened that day).

      But there, I’m editorializing more than I mean to. The kids don’t belong anywhere near this one, full stop. That’s all I really meant to say.

      Like

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