I was meant to be on a plane to Dunedin this afternoon—it was cancelled by a hailstorm—but all I could think about was the militarized police occupation of Ferguson, Missouri. It’s terrifying. I’m terrified, and I am only on the other side of the world, watching through the tiny screen of my Twitter feed, refreshing, refreshing again.
First a kid was killed for no reason, with his hands in air, begging, ‘Don’t shoot!’ Then people in his community got angry at the police who shot him—and they still haven’t named him—and started protesting the way their community is treated by law enforcement. Some people there decided to loot a convenience store and that’s when the tanks and the gas and the no fly zonebegan to happen. Today, as I was waiting to hear if my flight had been canceled, the cops arrested reporters for doing their jobs. I’m hearing reports of cops in riot gear standing on top of tanks screaming that people’s right to peaceful assembly are not being violated, of reporters being told to stop filming, of people being gassed in their own front yards.
I have one eye on Twitter as I write this, and the words and pictures keep coming. It’s too much, and not enough: pictures of people wounded by rubber bullets, advice (some say coming from Gazans) about how to deal with tear gas, exhortations for President Obama to come back from vacation and do something. I have no other way to learn about this news, I have no other way to know what is happening in my country right now. This has always happened in my country, and it keeps happening. It’s happening right now. A no-fly zone.
I was traveling with my boss, and as we waited to know if we would leave Wellington this afternoon I tried to explain why I was so low on battery; it’s been on the New Zealand news, a bit, like a lot of American stuff, but I don’t think she’d seen it yet. When you just say the facts, plain and simple, it sounds unbelieveable, and indeed she said as much. I would like to say I can’t believe it either, but: I can, pretty easily. The history is there. The weapons are there. The racism is there. The deaths are there, all of them. It’s happening now, it’s always been happening. I did not always understand that: I didn’t have to.
What to do with that understanding, safe in my privilege (for now), safe on the other side of the world. I retweet impotently, I refresh the newsfeed. I sign the petition and make the donation. I see it happening, person by person, moment by moment. Believe it or not.