The Professor, the President, and the Police
Professor Henry Louis Gates and his arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, have been invited to the White House for a beer. It might take more than a tall cool brew to cure all that ails the US.
The President’s invitation looks like a political strategy to cool down the controversy. Sometimes controversy is good. Sometimes it can be a cure for ‘denial’. Controversy can be an opportunity for a national debate on the virtue or lack of virtue of the US.
The US is a racist country. In addition, it is also a classist, elitist, arrogant country. Classist for sure, when 18,000 die every year because of lack of access to health care. Elitist, for sure, when one looks at the distribution of wealth. Arrogant and aggressive – just look at US foreign policy.
Back to the arrest of the Professor – it was stupid. Pouring cold beer on a stupid decision does not suddenly make it an intelligent decision. The arresting officer is probably a good officer. Maybe he was just having a bad day. Many police officers are honorable, but they are not infallible. Once in a while, they make mistakes.
The big issue is not ‘the incident’. The big issue is how the President backed away from his original enthusiastic support of Gates. That might be a good political move, but the president’s flip-flopping is troublesome. It feels like daja vu all over again. Remember when Rev. Jeremiah Wright was abandoned by Obama.
In the words of Rev. Wright: “We’ve bombed Hiroshima, we’ve bombed Nagasaki, we’ve nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye. . . . We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and Black South Africans, and now we are indignant. Because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”
“We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, the Iroquois, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism. We took Africans from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism. We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel; we bombed the Black civilian community of Panama, with Stealth bombers, and killed unarmed teenagers and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard-working fathers. We’ve bombed Gadhafi’s home and killed his child.
“… We bombed Iraq; we killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back an attack on our embassy. Killed hundreds of hard-working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day, not knowing that they would never get back home.
“We’ve bombed Hiroshima, we’ve bombed Nagasaki, we’ve nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye. Kids playing in the playground, mothers picking up children after school, civilians not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.
“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and Black South Africans, and now we are indignant. Because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards.
“America’s chickens are coming home to roost. Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred and terrorism begets terrorism…”
Basically the Rev. Wright said damn any country that kills innocent men, women, and children. Similar thoughts have been expressed by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Ward Churchill, and many others.
What a national teaching opportunity we could have had. Now again, with the arrest of Professor Gates, we have another opportunity to raise the consciousness of a nation in denial. Now is the time for some national soul searching. If that can happen over a beer in the White House, it will be a great step forward – but maybe it will take more than a tall cool one in the Oval Office to cure the ills of the US.
Rosemarie Jackowski firstname.lastname@example.org