Monday, August 03, 2009

Gates-gate: What can we learn?

A neighbor sees someone trying to force their way into a house and calls the police. The police show up and find that someone still in the house. They request to see ID. And things get fuzzy from there, turning into a national issue that helped the President of the United States stick his foot in his mouth at a time it should have been talking about his health care reform. The whole incident doesn't really end when the President invites both parties to the White House for a beer.

I'm not sure what we are supposed to learn.

The real loser in this is Lucia Whalen, the neighbor who called the police. She has been defamed far and wide by Gates' defenders. That is completely wrong. She should be applauded. If one of my neighbors saw me forcing their way into my house and called the cops I'd go right over there and thank them, because mistake or not, at least she was paying attention and willing to do something to protect my property.

Lucia Whalen, thank you! As a home-owner and home-owners association president I would like to say I wish there were more people like you.

Of course we can also learn that perhaps we don't do enough these days to get to know our neighbors. Perhaps if people were closer in Gates' neighborhood Whalen would have recognized him and not had to call the cops. That's not her failing. That's America's failing.

I shudder to think about what lessons we can learn about race and politics. All I know is that if I had just had difficulty getting into my home and the police show up investigating reports of a burglary I would 1) show them my identification immediately and without talking back, and once they are convinced I live there, 2) thank them for protecting my property and doing their (very difficult) jobs. I would not have ended up in jail, because I would have done nothing to get myself there. But if I had, you can bet the charges would not have been dropped, either.

I am concerned, any racial overtones aside, that our President admits publicly that he doesn't know the facts of the case but in the same breath passes judgment anyway. There was no reason for him to make a statement at that time and in that way. He deserves to get beaten up in the polls because of it. It was a foolish, easily-avoided mistake.

One final lesson, one of forgiveness and humanity:

Gates castigated Crowley in person and in the media, yet Crowley still helps him down the steps. He had every reason to dislike Gates, and to let him get himself down the steps. No one would have thought anything of it, likely. But he helped anyway. That, folks, is the measure of a man.

1 comment:

Ronaldo said...

And some people have pointed out who ISN'T helping out the old man in this picture too.