Tragedy has struck America. But a Grand Jury did its job.

Going into last night’s announcement, we did not have all the evidence. For weeks, the talking heads filled the airwaves and commandeered the conversation with educated conjecture, but more often less-educated rumor. What we really needed to support our national discussion, and to still our civil unrest, was fact, not fiction.

Now, we have the facts. Moving forward, we will have an opportunity to study the Grand Jury’s decision in light of all the evidence. And, to be sure, we will have the chance to re-launch a nationwide dialogue about race relations. Months of rioting have evidenced the profound need for such a dialogue.

But until we have digested and assimilated the facts, separating them from the fiction, wisdom compels us to refrain from the irrational accusations and ignorant invective now spilling across our television and computer screens. Prudent restraint is needed at this moment.

Such prudence moves us to calmly mourn the death of a youth. Prayers go out to his parents, family, friends, and community. No matter the conditions of his death, their loss is our defeat. His tragic death, deeply etched in our national consciousness, now becomes a lesson to all of us that drugs and violence lead only to the grave. May we be inspired in the midst of suffering to find a better way to live together in this America.

As Christians, we dare to hope that one day the sun that shines more brightly than all the others will extinguish the flames of hatred and warm the coldness of fear. With all religious believers, we invest our faith in the dawn of a brighter America, offering prayers that Michael Brown’s community will not be incited to further violence, but will re-dedicate itself in his memory to the work of justice and charity. Only by coming together as one people united as citizens of one land, as President Obama reminded us last evening, will we be able to preserve that work from failure.

But, that work will not be accomplished at the cost of denigrating and impugning our American justice system. We have confidence in the blindness of lady justice and we affirm the rule of law in this land.

The Grand Jury did its job. Acting as an agent of our American justice system, it found that six-foot tall Michael Brown, who died with traces of marijuana in his body, had rushed at Officer Darren Wilson, having reached for his gun with an intention to kill; that there was no probable cause to indict the officer who had acted in legitimate self-defense; and that Wilson committed no crime whatsoever. In effect, the Grand Jury found that an officer of the law acted responsibly, doing what his personal character and professional training had prepared him to accomplish, but what he never wanted to do. For carrying out his duty, he and his family have quite possibly been forced into hiding. That is just as much an injustice as any unfortunate loss of life, regardless of the circumstances.

Race-baiting, political spin, and slander will try to confuse us and get us to forget that temporarily. But, none of it can—or should—silence the voice of American justice, which speaks more eloquently than the shrill and violent crowds seeking to instill fear into the heart of America at this hour. The death of Michael Brown and the service of Officer Darren Wilson deserve a more sensitive and sensible discussion about race issues in our country.

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About John Paul Shimek 0 Articles
John Paul Shimek is a Roman Catholic theologian and a specialist on Vatican affairs. In March 2013, he reported from Rome on the election of Pope Francis, the first Latin American pope in the history of the Catholic Church.