by SETH EISENBERG
Barack Obama is a popular guy in Ferguson, Missouri.
In 2012, more than three-quarters of the community’s registered voters turned out for the Presidential Election; 85 percent supported Obama-Biden over Romney-Ryan.
That overwhelming support wasn’t enough for the state to go for Obama. Former Governor Mitt Romney easily won Missouri’s 10 electoral votes.
It’s hard to imagine that didn’t influence the 88 percent of Ferguson’s registered voters who choose not to turn out for the recent election of three city council members; the council that oversees local law enforcement and other officials who had much more influence on Michael Brown’s life and death than Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.
President Obama was 200 miles from Ferguson last year when he told students and faculty at the University of Central Missouri, “What makes us the envy of the world has not just been our ability to generate incredible wealth for a few people; it’s the fact that we’ve given everybody a chance to pursue their own true measure of happiness. That’s who we are.”
If he ever was, that’s not who Michael Brown is anymore.
It’s a safe bet that’s not who millions of other young people believe they are either.
Ferguson has heard it all when it comes to hopeful words and promises of politicians, officials, organizers and activists.
When President Obama stands over the merciless concrete where 18-year-old Michael Brown lay dead for hours, as he surely will in the weeks to come, his best chance of helping Ferguson and so many other Fergusons throughout America has to be about demonstrating that listening can be a life or death issue. Helping families and neighbors learn to hear each other without violence will do more for Ferguson and America than our President’s most impassioned speech.
Ferguson’s protesters are united in wanting to be heard – not counseled, consoled or seeing Michael Brown’s senseless death continue as a daily backdrop for lawyers, politicians, pundits and others who began looting the community’s sorrow even faster than those who assaulted broken doors and windows to pillage groceries, liquor and electronics whose value pales in comparison.
The protesters need people with power and authority to ask four sets of questions, in order, and truly listen to the answers.
What are you MAD about? What else are you MAD about? If you were MAD about anything else, what would it be?
What are you SAD about? What else are you SAD about? If you were SAD about anything else, what would it be?
What are you SCARED about? What else are you SCARED about? If you were SCARED about anything else, what would it be?
What are you GLAD about? What else are you GLAD about? If you were GLAD about anything else, what would it be?
Beginning to create a better future for Ferguson and every other community Ferguson has come to symbolize is about listening to how people respond to these questions and thanking them for confiding.
That’s very different from telling people how to feel, what to do, or responding with what will be considered empty words of hope and promise that didn’t work for Michael Brown and far too many others whose names we will never know.
Seth D. Eisenberg is President/CEO of the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation in Hollywood, Florida, a pioneering industry leader in marriage and relationship education. He is the author of PAIRS Essentials and Loops: The Secret Saboteurs of Intimacy and How to Get Rid of Them Forever, available from Amazon.