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Sometimes tragedy is just that
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Sometimes a tragedy is just a tragedy, and not necessarily a melodrama pitting good against evil.
We accept that when people are killed by tornadoes. Otherwise, however, many prefer the illusory comforts of a well-told tale -- particularly one that reflects favorably upon their own ethnic tribe or political cohort, and unfavorably upon others.
So it's been in the infinitely sad death of Michael Brown at the hands of Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson. Tragic not only because of one young life snuffed out and another ruined, but because of a veritable avalanche of racial and political accusations that have millions fighting bitterly over who's to blame.
As you'll hear nightly on MSNBC, more witnesses told the grand jury they saw Brown make a gesture of surrender than described him charging Wilson. However, several of the same witnesses also claimed they saw Wilson shoot Brown in the back or murder him execution-style, which both autopsy and ballistic evidence proved impossible.
In my experience, people who see visions of Satan and God battling in the clouds, and who send cellphone photos of the sky documenting those illusions -- as Brown did weeks before his death, according to his father -- are in dire need of psychiatric intervention.
According to the AP, Brown had made dramatic pronouncements to his uncle, Pastor Charles Ewing. "He said, 'One day the whole world is going to know my name,'" said Ewing. "Isn't that something? Not knowing that this was going to happen."
It's apt to touch anybody familiar with the messianic delusions of schizophrenia rather differently.
Yes, Wilson depicted Brown's face as looking like a "demon." His account of Brown's actions, however, will sound sadly familiar to anybody who's ever dealt with an enraged person suffering from psychosis: "He was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I'm shooting at him. And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn't even there."
One horrified witness told jurors, "the only thing I kept saying was, is he crazy? Why don't he just stop instead of running because if somebody is pulling a gun on you, first thing I would think is to drop down on the ground and not try to look like I'm going to attack 'em."
Another woman testified, "Michael turned around and started charging toward the officer and the officer was still yelling 'stop.' He did have his firearm drawn, but he was yelling 'stop, stop, stop.'"
Beyond race, beyond politics, the question is: Could Michael Brown even hear him?
Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons can be reached at