exercising my first amendment rights

I guess you could consider me a political person. I guess.
I’m a political science major, I follow elections in the way that some people follow the NBA, and I read the New York Times. For fun.

I guess you could consider me an opinionated person. Again, I just guess on this one.
I’ve been known to voice my unpopular opinions, stand my ground in political and social arguments, and I mean I guess if you follow my blog you’ve probably read my response to UofL’s newspaper article about Greeks. (It got over 5,500 views – you’ve probably read it.)

With that being said, you probably opened this expecting me to spout off about the Ferguson decision, and I’m sorry to disappoint. But you can join my club, because I’m disappointed myself.

No, I’m not disappointed in the decision made by a jury of my peers. I’m not disappointed in the legal system, or the police force. I’ve studied the constitution, I’ve studied (a little bit of) the law, and I’ve followed the evidence on this case. I trust in the Grand Jury, made of my peers, to make the right decision. I believe that I don’t have all of the evidence before me, I did not hear all of the testimonies made, I don’t know all of the facts – and for that reason, I am not disappointed in the decision – because it is not my place to decide.

What I am disappointed and mad as Hell about, is how the rest of my peers have taken to the decision. I understand that many people are frustrated, and have taken this to be an issue of race rather than just simply a legal proceeding. Don’t get me wrong. I mourn with the family of Michael Brown for a life taken so young, with the past month it hits way too close to home. But those who are rioting and burning cities down aren’t mourning with the Browns. And this is where my unpopular opinion comes out to play.

The people violently protesting in Ferguson and across the nation are not standing in solidarity with Michael Brown and his family; they’re simply pursuing the types of stereotypes and culture that caused this tragedy in the first place. There, I said it. Now, before your heads explode – let me finish. When the decision was released, the Brown family made a public statement…
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Someone please explain to me how rioting, looting, and destroying property respects their wishes at all? It was their son who was lost, it is their family who will have an empty seat at the table this Thanksgiving, but random strangers feel it is necessary to put other lives in danger in order to avenge his death? I’m sorry, but no. The First Amendment to our Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to peacefully assemble and petition their government. In case you haven’t turned on the news and are blissfully unaware of what is now going on in Ferguson in the hours since the verdict was given, does this look peaceful to you?

A Walgreens on fire and being looted. A police cruiser lit on fire. Smoke and tear gas filling the streets as police respond to the violence and gunfire. An American flag being burnt.

If you want to destroy your town because you’re mad, so be it. Burn your house down, light your car on fire, run around like a crazy and pray you don’t get shot. Talk about how horrible America is, move to Canada or Switzerland or North Korea for all I care – but do NOT burn the American flag. Yes, I know that it is not illegal to burn the American flag. Yes, I’ve also read the opinions given by the SCOTUS in Texas v. Johnson making it unconstitutional to outlaw the burning of the American flag.

I’ve also seen my friends, neighbors, loved ones go to war to protect that flag, as well as the First Amendment that protects the right to free speech and expressive conduct. But, I haven’t seen all of them come home. The reality of it is, this protest is about one life that was lost. 1.3 million lives have been lost protecting everything that the American flag stands for. Riot, loot, burn down your city – I don’t care. But don’t let the lives of 1.3 million Americans be lost in vain. I believe that Mark Twain said it best when he said, “Patriotism is supporting your country always, and your government when it deserves it.”  I’m disappointed in my fellow Americans for not supporting their country, for allowing this to happen, for setting fire to the flag. I’m disappointed in the government that there were White House representatives at Michael Brown’s funeral, but not at those of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle or Major General Harold Greene, the first U.S. General to be killed in combat since Vietnam.

I’m disappointed that because I stand behind the decision made by the Grand Jury that I’m racist, insensitive, misunderstanding of the struggles of minorities. That I see Michael Brown (and all people of minority races) as lesser than a white person.

I understand that I am a twenty-year-old, middle class, white female. If I’ve been told about my “white privilege” once, I’ve been told a million times. And I’m sick and tired of being told that my opinions are wrong because of it. I believe that life is precious, and that every life is equal. But I also believe that because every life is precious and every life is equal – that self-defense is just as important for police as it is for you or me. I by no means am attempting to come off as racist, and that is never my intention. But in a world where I feel I am constantly walking on eggshells simply because of the “privileged” color of my skin, it can be a difficult task.

It is heart wrenching that a young life was lost. But would you be sitting here hating me for my opinion if it were Darren Wilson who was killed? Would you even know his name?

Just food for thought.