Through Thick and Thin: Professor Gates to Dead Canaries
Another day, another week, and a another year older. Yesterday was my birthday, which was why there was no mid-week post. The celebrations began early and lasted until last night. Of course pretty much the only person celebrating was me, and my celebrations mostly consisted of sitting around home relaxing with the cell phone turned off. Worked for me.
Cutting straight to the chase, I’ve changed my thinking regarding the Professor Gates affair. (This is why I have no future as a cable news pundit, I can change my mind when presented with reasonable argument.) I’ve decided I was unfair to the professor. The fact of the matter, being arrested inside your own home because you got in a cop’s face is simply unconscionable. Cops are supposed to be trained to deal with stuff like that in a professional manner, and wasting everyone’s time with a trumped up “disorderly conduct” arrest is just the modern version of arresting people for mopery*. I mean, what, exactly, is disorderly conduct? Pretty much whatever the cop says it is, try explaining that to a jury. Which is why the charges were dropped like a lead balloon as soon as this case hit the airwaves.
In the greater picture, I still think this has little or nothing to do with racism. The response to it does highlight a much deeper issue, how did we become a society where police have reached such an elevated status where being polite and deferential is considered the only acceptable way to conduct oneself around cops? There’s a whole host of issues bundled into this issue. I mean, we have more cops per capita than any other major industrialized country, and yet our crime rate is about the worst in the industrialized world. The same with our prisons, we have a greater percentage of our population locked up than any other country as well. So gee, we have a cop on every corner, backed up by cops with as much firepower as military infantry, and millions of bad guys are locked up. Not to mention sentencing laws that have gotten more draconian every year. Yet somehow, despute this massive investment in law and order, it’s still not safe to walk the streets. We’ve been “getting tough” on crime for decades now, and the only payoff seems to be the creation of a prison industry and police industry with hordes of lobbyists making sure they get ever more money.
However, the point I am trying to make, is that while we are not a police state or an occupied country … yet, we have gotten to a point where the police are more and more are here to protect themselves and the interests of our corporate/political elite. And decades of cops shows and fake court shows not only have blinded people to this situation, most of them now are programmed to assume the police are always right. So again and again one can read about police shootings and police brutality, and the pundits approve! I mean, the mainstream media never even uses the phrase “police brutality” anymore.
Let me illustrate. Back in the seventies I worked for a fine fellow, Keith Ugie, a property owner in Los Altos Hills. He lived on a long dead-end road, and one day he came home from work and a cop car was blocking the entrance to is street. So he parked nearby to wait. A young cop came over and told him to move along. He looked at the cop and said “No, I’m legally parked, I live on that street, I’m not interfering with you in any way … so I’m going to stay right here until you’re done with whatever you’re doing and I can go home.” The cop had a coniption de merde and threatened to arrest him if he didn’t move. Keith didn’t move. The cop went and got the older cop. The older cop came over, and apologized for the younger cop. And that was that. My point here is not that the cops indeed have arrested him today in this circumstance, but that is attitude toward the cops is what citizens of a free country should have. The police are supposed to be our servants, not vice versa. And if a cop oversteps the line, it’s the cop who is at fault, not the citizen. And arresting a guy in is own home when he has done nothing wrong is over the line by any definition I can think of.
Granted I still think it’s a good idea to be polite to cops, but only because it’s a good idea to be polite to everyone. And I’m sorry I joined the sorry chorus of talking heads who promoted the “we all have to respect the cops” line. No, we need to get back to an America where the cops respect us, or we are heading for the police state the extreme rightists and the extreme leftists are warning about. That extremists of all stripes are worried about the USA becoming a police state sure seems like a dead canary to me.
In any event, what was supposed to be a post about the week’s news as morphed into a diatribe about the Professor Gates incident. So be it. Have a great weekend everyone!
*Mopery is “walking down the street with no particular destination in mind” or in more more modern usage, “exposing yourself to a blind person.”
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use/Public Domain under US copyright law. The author, Jean-Baptiste Greuze died in 1805, I’m not using the picture for profit, yada yada yada. Credit: National Galleries of Scotland. It’s titled “A Girl With a Dead Canary.” I selected it to illustrate the post because it was the first public domain pic of a dead canary I could find, and as always, I love old paintings almost as much as I love old photographs. The foliage should be green and the canary yellow, but age has changed their hues. It’s changed my hues, that’s for sure.)