I’ve had a number of students over the past few days ask me for my opinion of the events in Ferguson, MO. They register shock when I tell them I don’t have one. “You see,” I  say, “Ferguson is not my place. I don’t have intimate knowledge either of it, or of the events there. In the absence of such knowledge, any opinion I have is going to say more about me and my concerns than it will about Ferguson.”  We live in a world that resists judgment when we have intimacy, but encourages it when we don’t. I don’t really have the right to pass judgment on the events of Ferguson. I’m an outsider and would almost certainly oversimplify things. In any case, I’m not sure it’s any of my business.

This usually stops them in their tracks, but also gets them to think. The strongest claim for concern, I believe, comes from arguments grounded in racial solidarity, and from a viewpoint of (presumed) shared experience. Otherwise, as is often the case, the less said the better.

The American Conservative does have an interesting article from a former citizen of Ferguson, which is worth reading.

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Jeffrey Polet
Jeffrey Polet grew up in an immigrant household in the immigrant town of Holland MI. After twenty years of academic wandering he returned to Holland and now teaches political science at Hope College, where he also grudgingly serves as chair of the department, having unsuccessfully evaded all requests. In the interim, he continues to nurture quirky beliefs: Division III basketball is both athletically and morally superior to Division I; the Hope/Calvin rivalry is the greatest in sports; the lecture is still the best form of classroom instruction; never buy a car with less than 100,000 miles on it; putts will still lip out in heaven; bears are the incarnation of evil; Athens actually has something to do with Jerusalem; and Tombstone is a cinematic classic. His academic work has mirrored his peripatetic career. Originally trained at the Catholic University of America in German philosophy and hermeneutical theory, he has since gravitated to American Political Thought. He still occasionally writes about European thinkers such as Michel Foucault or the great Max Weber, but mostly is interested in the relationship between theological reflection and political formation in the American context. In the process of working on a book on John Marshall for The Johns Hopkins University Press, he became more sensitive to the ways in which centralized decision-making undid local communities and autonomy. He has also written on figures such as William James and the unjustly neglected Swedish novelist Paer Lagerkvist. A knee injury and arthritis eliminated daily basketball playing, and he now spends his excess energy annoying his saintly wife and their three children, two of whom are off to college. Expressions of sympathy for the one who remains can be posted in the comments section. He doesn’t care too much for movies, but thinks opera is indeed the Gesamtkuntswerk, that the music of Gustav Mahler is as close as human beings get to expressing the ineffable, that God listens to Mozart in his spare time, and that Bach is history’s greatest genius.

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