Bad news travels really fast. Â We all know that. Â Good news, where it can be found these days, tends to stay local. Â In the three weeks since a grand jury decided that there was not enough evidence to charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson with any sort of a crime for shooting Michael Brown in self-defense, the world has seen the worst of the St. Louis region. Â A worst that even we St. Louisans didn’t know existed here. Â Thugs set a couple dozen businesses on fire in Ferguson, a suburb in North County. Â A bunch of people stood in the middle of Interstate 44 and blocked traffic before breaking into businesses on South Grand in South City. Â Local university students thought it would be cute to lay down in the shopping malls as part of a “die-in” and started a trend. Â (Which might be the only time St. Louis has lead the nation in anything not related to baseball.)
The images from THOSE incidents, along with five Rams players acting before thinking while running down the tunnel before a game, went viral, as we say. Â Out there in internet land, and in the national media at large, these are the snapshots that defines the St. Louis-Ferguson debacle for the world. Â Those are the news items that persuaded thousands of potential students at the University of Missouri St. Louis to not apply there. Â (Retention, though, is very high.)
Other than the truly inspiring story of Natalie DuBose, the owner of Natalie’s Cakes & More which was damaged in the Ferguson fires and the over $200,000 that was raised in two days to help her rebuild, not much of the real St. Louis, or the good news from around here, has traveled beyond the pages of the St. Louis Post-Disgrace (Post-Dispatch if you insist on being formal), KMOV (CBS), KTVI (FOX), KSDK (NBC), and the mighty MOX, KMOX, our 50,000 watt clear-channel radio station.
Believe it or not, there is good news here:
- The owners of Sam’s Butcher Shop in Ferguson decided not to rebuild and retire. Â That left their butchers without a job. Â One of the local grocery chains went out of their way to find them, and have hired on three. Â Any other chain, this could be considered a publicity stunt, but this particular company leads the region in charitable donations to hunger relief. Â They’re good people.
- After five members of the Rams’ receiving corps did the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” thing, the team and the NFL were soundly derided by fandom in the St. Louis area and one of the local police groups made statements against the team, no real apology was forthcoming from anyone in the Billionaire Boys Club Fraternity (that would be the NFL). Â However, buried in a Post-Disgrace story later in the week, there was a mention that the five were pulled into Jeff Fisher’s office (the head coach) where he proceeded to explain how their actions affected the team, finances and football in general. Â The five were oblivious to that and backtracked a bit. Â In addition, before Thursday night’s game against the Cardinals at the Dome, the Rams presented $50,000 to Backstoppers, which is the St. Louis version of the Widows and Orphans Fund. Â More of a consolation prize than an apology, but it seems that they get the point, even if the league doesn’t.
- On Friday, a local nonprofit held a legal clinic in Ferguson to give free legal advice to the owners of businesses that were damaged or destroyed. Â It is felt among the lawyers volunteering their time that those people have enough on their plates, they don’t need to be worrying about lawyers fees.
- Lawmakers in Jefferson City are investigating Gov. Nixon’s actions, or lack thereof with the National Guard the night of the grand jury announcement. Â Probably will meet the great stonewall of the Obama Administration somewhere along the line, but to say Nixon is finished in Missouri politics is an understatement.
- There have been several sit down conversations clearing the air between police and students, residents, lawmakers, etc. Â It is still early, and really all that is happening is an airing of grievances, but at least discussion has started.
But what is most interesting, and if you don’t live here this just is not noticed, is that there is a difference in the demeanor of black residents. Â Unspoken and unpublished, there were some “slights” that blacks habitually made around whites that were neither illegal or immoral, but on occasion annoying that have disappeared in the wake of the thuggish behavior in Ferguson. Â It was the sort of thing that if you were not looking for it, you wouldn’t see it. Â All of it is gone.
Everyday discourse at least in this part of town (somewhere in the middle) is now polite, and charming. Â Compliments and easy conversation are the order of the day away from the protests. Â One black man who was ringing for the Salvation Army was in the door of a local store singing away no matter who walked by. Â Yes, this is the way it should always be, and has not been.
So, lest anyone think that the Gateway City is being abandoned or otherwise dying, no. Â What we are is discovering the goodness of the people here yet again. Â We who do not believe that violence solves problems and who recognize that idolizing a criminal in the name of justice is not simply ironic, but wrong have new reasons to band together. Â Given the long history of some really blatant segregation in this city, complete comfort will take time, but putting the past in the past has started. Â All thanks to a bunch of thugs who sought to “burn the bitch down.”