International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Reality Check with James
...Life Is But A Dream
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not
be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,
supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the
place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
4th Amendment to the United States Constitution
Last week in the
final seconds of a nearly one-hour press conference on Healthcare reform
the president of the United States commented derisively on a curious
case of police activity in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Barack Obama, despite
admitting he did not know the hard details of the case but did have
a personal relationship with the accused, said the police acted "stupidly".
After a close review of the police report it turns out the president
was kind. What the police did to a Mr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. was beyond
blunder or misconduct. It was criminal, and when all is said and done
should be tried and convicted as such.
The "stupidly" part came afterwards.
The ensuing furor over the president offering any commentary
on such a random case, despite its thorny racial overtones, was heated
and somewhat warranted, even though as the first citizen of the United
States and its chief executive officer and protector of the constitution,
and also, (yikes!), a black man, he was simply asked and answered honestly.
However, rarely are presidents as candid and forthcoming on such matters,
excluding, of course, the famous quote from Richard Nixon about Charles
Manson's obvious guilt smack dab in the middle of the most dramatic
trial of the twentieth century. The president busting on cops is would
be a cause for uproar. Apparently the president can only mock the press,
dissidents, evildoers, or hippies without backlash.
Of course the president eventually backslid, as everyone
does these days, which is very disappointing. Just because it hurts
the odd feeling or crosses an invisible line of presidential etiquette
does not make the observation false or wrong. It was true and right,
and quite frankly not strong enough. Perhaps the president should have
been more up on the details, then maybe he would not have been so quick
to try and make nice, and make nice he did the day of this writing with
a hollow and creepy White House "Beer Summit" between the
victim and his most ardent critic, Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge
Most troubling is that this P.R. fracas misses the most
salient points -- the entire episode has less to do with race, freedom
of speech, or the presidency than it does with the priority of the Fourth
Let's begin with the incident at large, and then move
onto the subsequent silliness.
Firstly, there is a fair argument to be made that Henry
Louis Gates Jr., author, scholar, literary critic and Harvard professor
for nearly two decades was harassed within the walls of his own home
because he was a black man. Cambridge is a lily-white upper crust town,
and that upon returning home from a trip to China his driver, also an
African American man, attempted to help him gain forced entrance through
a "jammed" front door. Moreover, the woman who called the
cops, Lucia Whalen, was cacuasian.
If you're African Amercian this might seem more than a
tad coincidental. However, I too might be inclined to call the cops
if two guys I did not recognize were trying to gimmy their way into
a home. That's not true. I'd probably mutter, "That's a shame"
and walk away. But I get it. Then again I'm not black, so how could
I begin to understand what someone who is might say to such an overt
act of suspicion and the subsequent goofy actions by the local police.
This gets us to the climax of this notrious tale of bungle:
When responding to a report of a possible break-in, the Cambridge police
cuff and arrest Gates, charging him with disorderly conduct after what
the officer described as "a confrontation", but was later
revealed as pretty much an overly dramatic wigout by Gates. Here's where
things get weird whether you relate or not.
Once the officers arrive, Gates clearly shows his identification
and suffucient proof that the house was indeed his residence. Now it
no longer matters why anyone called the cops, what color Gates is, what
he does for a living, or what the hell the president of the United States
or anyone else thinks of the proceedings. It is a blatantly indefensible
4th Amendment violation, and no matter what harrangue followed, barring
physcial abuse to the officers, civil servants of the state grossly
overstepped their duty and broke the law.
Oh, and by the way, prosecutors later dropped the charges,
all but admitting the police at the very least acted inappropriately.
How the president could cave when the facts of this case
were later made clear beyond mere public relations is beyond fathoming.
Could it have been the insipid ranting of Right Wing idiots
blabbering on about Obama hating white people or dinasuars like George
Will mucking up network news shows with the most out-of-touch Jim Crow
gobblygook imaginable? Probably. Now that an outspoken Hispanic woman
is in the dock for the Supreme Court and middle America needs to be
greased for the Healthcare dirge, it's time to placate; but since this
space is not written by a politician or anyone running for the Congeniality
ticket, it won't fly here.
One thing Will, who knows less about race relations in
this country than he does about baseball (at least he didn't write a
laughably moronic book about race relations), said about Gates was right;
he's a victim. But Will seems to think the president made him one, instead
of the police, who actually ripped the guy from his home and arrested
him for merely being an asshole. And shit, I can have half the people
I know dragged to the tank for that.
Will, like all the crazies who attacked Obama for his
commentary, profess to be card-carrying conservatives, who cannot stop
whining about how the country is besieged by sudden tyranny, and scream
bloody murder anytime someone mentions gun control -- we need to protect
ourselves from an authoritarian state, you know -- appear comfortable
with thin-skinned coppers playing Gestapo in someone's living room.
© James Campion August 1st 2009
the start, Michael Jackson was the bread-winning, bacon-hauling strength
and breath of the Jackson Five
How The Streets Of Iran Are Burning The Fumes of the '79 Revolution
Jefferson, one of history's most articulate dreamers, saw uprisings
as a kind of spiritual right of passage for the human spirit, a Jesus/Mohammad
king-hell joust with tyranny
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.