Ferguson and the Social Fabric


Photo by Whitney Curtis

When we pull out so many threads from our social fabric, we should not be surprised when it unravels so quickly. For decades in the United States we have created systems and structures that make the interconnections of our community more fragile: increasing income inequality, a minimum wage that never keeps up with inflation, unequal access to quality healthcare, the systemic perpetuation of racial injustices, an emphasis on militarization of our police rather than building our communities, vast inequalities in our public education system, a stronger safety net for large corporations than for those who are poor, unequal access to political power and participation, a privatized and profit driven prison system, and unsustainable practices in relation to the environment with the negative consequences being felt disproportionately by the poor – and this is not nearly an exhaustive list.  The social fabric of our society is as weak as I have experienced it in my lifetime.

The solution to these challenges is the not the militarization of our families and the creation of fortress neighborhoods and segregated communities. The solution is a systemic re-weaving of our social fabric such that all persons see and experience themselves as persons-in-community; a community that works for our well being and for whose well being we all work. What is happening now in Ferguson is not just a community problem in that city, it is a community problem in our whole country – a country that has forgotten or has perhaps never completely learned what it means to be a just, participatory, and sustainable society. If we do not begin the work of re-weaving our social fabric, I fear that we will experience much more tragic unraveling in the years ahead. We cannot keep pulling out the threads that hold us together as a people and expect to live together in peace with justice.

In justifying the establishment of a curfew in Ferguson, the Governor of Missouri said that there can be no justice unless there is first peace. I think the governor and our society have this backwards – in reality there can be no lasting and sustainable peace without justice. It is incumbent upon all of us to work with urgency and nonviolence to weave a more just and sustainable social fabric for us all, and all means all. May we have the political will and the love for each other as members of the human community to do this work together.

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