Keeping Our Eyes Above The Waves


Over the past few days, as we’ve watched Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ronald S. Johnson step in to take over security operations in the midst of this past week’s civil unrest in Ferguson, MO, it’s become obvious that he is a truly exceptional person. The immediate good news in this, as reported in a related Washington Post article, is that Johnson’s first day on the job resulted in “Hugs, kisses and a night of peace (replacing) tear gas and unrest.” The more long-term and more challenging part of this is that Captain Johnson is, in fact, exceptional. If all of our nation’s leaders would emulate Johnson’s conduct, thus making him the rule rather than the exception, our country could be vastly improved.


A great way to begin learning how to go about this emulation would be by looking at statements Captain Johnson made in Friday’s (August 14, 2014) press conference and most importantly, by looking at his responses to the questions he received. The comments that I found to be most meaningful in this regard are outlined as follows:


Johnson stated that this is the beginning of a “new day” in Ferguson. He added to that by saying, “You’re gonna see a bunch of smiles, a bunch of hugs, a bunch of conversations …” And finally, he said, “We have to make sure we don’t burn down our own house … that does not help.” What an important message is contained in all that! For some time now, in articles like Listening For Our Best, I’ve been harping on that very theme. The heart of my message with these articles is “the strength that made America great in the first place (was) the synergy of the best of our differing ideas.” The only way to get back to that from where we are is by following the path taken by Captain Johnson – i.e. Acknowledge the existence of the matter at hand, be genuinely determined to resolve it to the mutual satisfaction of everyone concerned, do so by amiably hearing others and by having them hear you.


Of course, there were questions on race relations and justice for Captain Johnson. Following one very broad and lengthy question on this, Johnson’s response was, “The governor talked about old wounds. This is an old wound. It’s time to stop saying it’s an old wound, and close it for good.” Seeming to look beyond that, he later added, “Yesterday we saw what it could be. We saw what it should be. And we saw what it will be.” Those were the most encouraging comments I’ve heard on this topic in a very long time. As a person who was raised in a time when and a place where the racial caste system known as Jim Crow remained in practice, I also found these words to be a great blessing. Often, I find myself looking back in grief, recognizing the impossibility of undoing the painful results of that practice, both during that time and since. Obviously, Captain Johnson’s approach doesn’t undo those injustices either. Nothing can. But, it does accomplish the only logical and achievable positive alternative … closing the wound for good. That is unless we allow those, like Al Sharpton, who have made a profession of keeping the old wound open, to continue in doing so.


What I found to be most powerful, though, was what Johnson shared about a related conversation he had with his daughter. He said, “When I got home last night, my daughter said me this, she said, ‘Daddy were you scared?’ And I said, ‘Just a little bit.’ And she said, ‘Daddy I want you to remember what Jesus asked Peter to walk with Him on the water.’ And she said, ‘When Peter got scared, Jesus picked him up and said, “Have faith.”‘ And I’m telling you today, we need to be just like Peter. ’cause I know we’re scared and I know we’ve fallen but He’s gonna pick us up and He’s gonna pick this community up.” I must admit that, though it was just me and my dog, Figgins, in the family room when I heard Johnson say that on TV, I applauded.


Sadly, Captain Johnson’s second night on the job didn’t go as well. Once again, early Saturday morning, the streets of Ferguson erupted in chaos, with protests over the police-shooting of Michael Brown being used as an excuse for looting and rioting. In other words, completely ignoring Captain Johnson’s guidance, his fellow-citizens chose to “burn down (their) own house”. The overarching reason behind this was something else that Johnson pointed to – i.e. “This is an old wound” and the residents of Ferguson continued in choosing not to”close it for good”. No doubt, that choice was greatly influenced by “the wound” being aggravated through the stereotypical press conference conducted by Michael Brown’s family attorneys and through Al Sharpton and others like him showing up.


The disappointing outcome of Captain Johnson’s second night on the job in Ferguson does not indicate anything lacking in his ability as a leader, though. What is indicated is that we and the people of Ferguson, need to do a much better job as followers. We are still failing to; “Acknowledge the existence of the matter at hand, be genuinely determined to resolve it to the mutual satisfaction of everyone concerned, do so by amiably hearing others and by having them hear you.” And, most importantly, we’re failing to put the interests of our community above our self-interests and we’re failing to look to something far greater than ourselves in order to attain our long-needed resolution. Captain Jackson couldn’t have given us a better example of how to do that than he did in pointing us to the account of when “Jesus asked Peter to walk with Him on the water”. For me, this brought to mind a song entitled Oceans (Where Feet May Fail), by Hillsong United and specifically, to the song’s lyrics that say,

“Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me

You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves”

That is what we and the people of Ferguson must do. As followers, instead of continuing to look upon what we’re scared of, we must “keep (our) eyes above the waves”, focused on our faith and determined to attain resolution.


Filed under community, Current Events, faith, leadership, Making a Difference, race

2 Responses to Keeping Our Eyes Above The Waves

  1. Al

    Good Evening Gary,

    I think you will learn, as the truth and real facts are revealed that the majority of the rioters and looters (greater than 70%) who are identified by the authorities as insurgent felons in this violent incident (including those rioters who threw Molotov cocktails and leveled several businesses to the ground) were actually NOT Ferguson residents, but mostly domestic terrorist opportunists that invaded the town.

    I too applaud Captain Johnson’s efforts to defuse the situation. The Black Panthers and several prominent black membership gangs are directly involved in the destruction of Ferguson. The town was established by white folk in the late 1800’s. It is now inhabited mostly by African-heritage Americans since the late 1980’s. It has become a bedroom community for drug dealers and gang members around St. Louis.

    This violence is the result of black urban gang violence being out of control and inaccurately reported at a national news level. It is being used by the Administration to infer that a predominately white police department is manned by a bunch of cowboy racists who persecute and defame the reputation of underprivileged young black men.

    Young and “gentle” (according to some family members) Michael Brown (a 6 ft. 4 in. & almost 300 lb felon) is hardly an angel. Mike can be seen on a webpage (like Facebook or Twitter) with a wad of dollars in his mouth pointing a semiautomatic pistol at the camera next to two vodka and mixer bottles (cute). “Little Mikey’s” attorney admitted yesterday he was one of the robbers at the convenience store that day. It is reported that Brown and his friend who robbed the store tried to take Officer Wilson’s gun from him after he viciously assaulted the police officer in the face and torso. It ha sbeen reported he then charged the injured officer at gunpoint when he was told to “freeze” in place. This whole thing is staged to look like a Travon Martin replay by the Federal Government and the US main stream media. Disgusting and disturbing, to say the least.

    If this was a fight between three black men, Captain Johnson would not be answering questions from national press journalists on TV. Our State Patrol Commander, Officer Batiste (from Louisiana), is also a “class act” leader and speaker like Johnson. Johnson sounds like he has some real Christian values and a desire to heal the wounds of grief in the death of a young man making some very bad (and deadly evil) choices in his lifetime.

    Pray for the real victims in Ferguson, MO. Like Watts, CA, the small Missouri town of 20,000 people will never be the same. I hope Capt. Johnson continues to protect them from this residual gang war and the political-opportunist “circus” it evokes.

    This type of mob violence could happen anywhere near a big city like St. Louis where gangs and cartels run boldly and mostly unchallenged in the neighborhood. We have a gang-initiated ghetto starting in my very small town over the last two months. The local police are obviously as concerned as I am seeing gang-banger clothing being worn and highly-symbolic gang tattoo’s on these new young black men forming their own newly-controlled “Hood” in the poor rental district of “Old Town”.

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