Everybody Calm Down and Talk It Out..
pblackwell, Sun, July 26th, 2009
Ah, a week of vacation in Orlando. Sun, fun, lots of good food, heat, humidity, the occasional afternoon gully-washer that can be both freaky and beautiful (two full rainbows witnessed on Saturday, early evening), then back to Syracuse...to drive right into a Sunday-night gullywasher. I brought the weather home.
Oh, but we were quite aware to events going on in the world. The ongoing health-care debate, war casualties in Afghanistan, the loss of Walter Cronkite (see earlier post, shameless plug), lots to ponder...
Wait, that didn't get talked about? Right, I get it, if race is involved, clear all the other decks.
If only it had ended with Henry Louis Gates, the distinguished Harvard academic, against James Crowley of the Cambridge police. Without his house keys after returning home from a trip, Gates used a window to climb into his house. Someone called police, Crowley showed up, an argument ensued - and Gates, not exactly considered a threat to society, is arrested for disorderly conduct. Yet again, the ugly issue of racial profling surfaces, where a guy gets called in because, well, he's black and he's entering his own house in a way other than the front door. Never mind the facts.
To its initial credit, the Cambridge Police quickly realized its mistake, freed Gates and dropped all charges. That was a tacit admittance that they had screwed up. You could say that they acted stupidly.
Barack Obama sure did, though what it had to do with a presidential press conference mainly devoted to the health-care issue remains a mystery.
Cue the rabid media dogs. More than a year removed from Jeremiah Wright and that whole deal, here came their chance to connect the president to the "race" issue and keep him there for eternity - for if not, the aggrieved whites would be very, very mad. Lead stories, everywhere, endless discussion NOT about whether the arrest was right or wrong, but because Obama said "stupid". I see, he says it, so we get to BE stupid a thousand times over and not get called out on it...
Amid the firestorm, the Cambridge Police did a 180, calling an elaborate news conference on Friday to blast Obama and defend themselves. Of course cops will back other cops - they should. But how, in the course from Monday to Friday, did a bad act by police suddenly become all right?
So when the president comes out Frday and tones down the words, calls Crowley, suggests they all get together for a beer, calls it a teachable moment, the Cambridge Police do ANOTHER 180 and say all is fine. Naturally the left got mad at this, wondering why Obama had backtracked.
Here I have to say the president erred only in the choice of words in the first place. Everything else he said about the issue of racial profiling was spot-on, and this issue demands further attention and examination, for plenty of cases not involving famous Harvard professors are in the hopper.
We are naive to think that just because we have an African-American in the White House, all our race problems are solved. Just look at the lunacy of those "birthers" still trying to prove (despite every shred of evidence to the contrary) that Obama is not an American citizen, and the amount of air time they get from the cable news crowd. Let's see if they would be that concerned about where a white president, of any party, was born...
If the Gates arrest and its aftermath draws us closer to a fairer society, then it will turn out to be a positive. But that will involve doing something radical - talking it out, not screaming at each other as if loudness decides who wins the point. Maybe a chat over beers at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. would be a decent start....