The Rev. Jesse Jackson may have overstated it a bit when he called the shooting of Michael Brown an execution, but I forgive him for that - Jackson has never been one to shy away from hyperbole. And, to be fair, others have used that word to describe what happened, too - a columnist that appeared on this very page a few days ago used it.
The exaggeration notwithstanding, the point is made: What happened in Ferguson, Missouri, two weeks ago was a tragedy, no matter how one looks at it, no matter what you call it (just please don't call it an execution!).
Brown's life shouldn't have ended that way, plain and simple.
Since the shooting, things only got worse in Ferguson, a city of just over 21,000 people - for context, it would be our Willmar. Thankfully, though, the common ground between Willmar and Ferguson ends with a census count.
Ferguson has race issues, and now the world knows it. Law enforcement in Willmar, while it's not the perfect city, likely isn't too concerned about segregation and overnight riots night after night. The unrest and tension in Ferguson once again reminds us that it sure is nice to live in Minnesota. Yes, Minneapolis has, in some areas, developed a rough reputation and cops there seem to be dealing with shootings more frequently, but nowhere in Minnesota will you ever see anything similar to what's happening in Ferguson.
Why is that?
Are there no race issues in big cities in Minnesota? There has to be. Is it just that we're lucky we have yet to have our Trayvon Martin moment? Are we protected by the Minnesota Nice doctrine?
Who knows, and maybe we shouldn't even ask the question so we can avoid being jinxed, but we really are lucky to live in a state - and for us out here, this part of the state - where the only times people gather on the street are for a street dance, a block party or to gawk at road construction. It might seem boring out here every now and again, but I'll take quiet and sleepy over tension and unrest any day.
Seeing rioting, shootings and looting going on in a middle-America city is disheartening. If you need another blessing to count, try this: Feel blessed you don't live in Missouri. Not only has Ferguson put itself on the enter-at-your-own risk map, Forbes has ranked St. Louis, a city smack dab in the path of major drug-trafficking routes, as the second most dangerous city, behind only Detroit.
But Forbes' list is made up of the big cities - i.e. Detroit (est. population of 713,239), St. Louis (320,454), Oakland (395,317), Memphis (652,725) and Birmingham (213,258) - how can things blow up so quickly and continue for so long in a city of 21,000? Since the shooting, community members have tried to protest publicly and rally together peacefully, but once night falls the scene turns into something out of "Escape from New York." It would be nice - and this is gonna sound really Minnesotan - if they could scare up a community-wide picnic, a coming-together of sorts. What a scene that would be - a little ray of light breaking through the dark clouds. Too bad even that would probably end with Molotov cocktails and gas canisters flying through the air. Colorful loomed rubber-band bracelets, good; plastic handcuffs, bad.
Many cities have a military and police presence during the summer. Most of them, though, are there for a parade. Ferguson could sure use one right about now.