Friday, July 31, 2009

Das Bier Summit-Post Thoughts

Cross-posted by Gary Fouse

Great summits in world history

Munich Summit 1938

Yalta Summit-1944

Potsdam Summit 1945

Kennedy-Khrushchev Summit in Vienna 1961

Nixon-Mao Summit in China 1972

The Beer Summit-Washington 2009

Biden: I tell ya, guys, we need to go to Ukraine. The babes are hot!! Hey, you heard this one? Knock-knock."

Gates: "Who's there?"

Biden: "Sgt Crowley."

The news media had a ball with this week's "beer summit" at the White House. Some cable outlets were featuring a countdown ticker until the beer was served, while another was showing viewers an aerial map of the White House grounds to show exactly where the Big Moment would take place, We even know what beers each man drank, for crying out loud. In the end, Joe Biden was invited to the party-to lighten things up I guess.

I thought that Sgt Crowley acted with with class in his post-beer interview-being careful not to fan any more flames (since he never fanned the flames to begin with) but also not conceding from his position that he acted properly in the arrest of Henry Louis Gates.

Of course, we don't know what the four gentlemen said to each other, but it is my hope that Crowley spoke up for the policemen of America who are so frequently accused of racial profiling every time they have to encounter a black person on the street. I am sure he got a lot of lecture from Gates (and Obama) about the insidiousness of racial profiling. Since he himself teaches the subject at the police academy, I am sure he is well versed on the topic and the past history of arbitrarily harassing blacks (which is what I would define racial profiling as). I have an idea that Sgt Crowley spoke just as frankly to Gates as Gates did to him on the subject of being called a racist every time a white man and black man have a disagreement. It is not fair and it has become very tiresome.

What the teachable moment is that President Obama is talking about I have no idea. Hopefully, he has learned not to jump into an issue in which, by his own admission, he has no personal knowledge, and declare that one side acted stupidly-then have to waste the next several days of his precious time trying to clean up his mess. Any "teachable moment" would have involved taping the conversation, which, in itself, would have destroyed any usefulness.

At this point, I would like to share a story from my youth. When I was 14 years old and growing up in Los Angeles, I was a punk, pure and simple. I thought I was a tough guy and liked to get into fights. One night, I was thrown out of an amusement park for some stupid thing I didn't do and escorted out by an LAPD cop. He was an older guy probably burned out and counting the days to retirement. He took me into a side room and filled out a card on my (field Identification card). I was angry because I didn't deserve to get thrown out of the park. Three times I called him a "dirty cop". The third time, he proceeded to kick my butt. After that, I started listening. In the end, perhaps realizing he had crossed the line, he became friendly let me go since my attitude had dramatically changed. So was he wrong in what he did? Sure. Did I deserve it? You bet.

None of that suggests that Professor Gates should have been roughed up for his verbal tirade. But the point is that my incident had nothing to do with race. The cop was white and so was I. (I still am.) The lesson is when you engage in a dispute-verbally or physically-with the police, only bad things will happen. Gates was out of line and engaged in disorderly conduct. A couple of days after the incident, I caught a snippet of Gates being interviewed by someone in front of an outdoor crowd (I assume it was at Harvard.) I only caught a part, but I heard Gates talk of how this white cop was obviously not prepared for a black man to "get in his face". (I am paraphrasing, but that is an accurate description of what Gates said.) So, I am now satisfied that Gates, as other witnesses have said, was being verbally abusive and acting in a disorderly manner that would have justified a charge of disorderly conduct. To say that Crowley was engaging in racial profiling is absurd. He was called to the scene of a possible home break-in and acted accordingly. He had no idea who he was going to encounter, and I have heard no witness state that Crowley was being other than professional in his behavior.

Again, teachable moment? Aside from the fact that white and black Americans view race through entirely different lens, which we know, I would like President Obama to tell us what we should learn from this.

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