Thursday, December 04, 2014


Filtering, Again

I don’t often repeat posts, but this one seems to warrant repeating.  It’s from this past August.  The fact that it bears repeating is sort of the point.


“Sometimes, the police break the law.”  -- Me, to The Girl, this week.

The Girl is ten, and The Boy is thirteen.  TB seems in a sort of hurry to grow up; TG is enjoying being ten.  But they’re both old enough to notice some of the things going on in the world around them.  And they notice when a parent reacts emotionally to a news story.

Robin Williams’ death generated parental reactions, but it was easier to explain.  The kids know about death, and we explained that he was a very funny actor we grew up watching.  It was sad, but it didn’t shake a worldview.  

The police shooting an unarmed young black man in Missouri was a harder case.  How to explain that to a sane, happy, blisteringly intelligent ten year old whose world still mostly makes sense?  

The Boy was born just a few months before 9/11.  I remember TW being glued to the set as she nursed him.  At the time, I was grateful that he was too young to understand what was happening.  To protect my own mental health, I actually tuned out the news entirely for a few weeks.  TB was tuned out by virtue of age.  TG hadn’t been born yet.

My first “political” memory in childhood was Watergate.  I had no idea what it was or why it was always on the tv -- sometimes preempting cartoons! -- but I knew Dad was glued to it, and I was miffed that it bumped Batman.  (As it happens, IFC is running old Batman shows this week.  TG enjoys the campy humor and the theme song.)  One night I asked Mom what it was all about.  She explained that the president’s friends had done something wrong, and he knew about it, but he didn’t tell anyone, and that was wrong, even for the president.  She even mentioned that the president isn’t above the law, which is why he isn’t a king.

That was pretty heady stuff for a five-year-old, but I remember it.  I liked the idea that even the president had to obey the law.  It seemed fair.  Forty years and a Ph.D. in political philosophy later, it still does.

Now I find myself explaining to my kids that even the police have to obey the law, and that sometimes, they don’t.  

I don’t want to terrify them.  Our next-door neighbor is a cop.  Placing risks in perspective can be tough as a kid.  And I want them to have enough room to reach their own conclusions over the years, even if they don’t align with mine; I don’t want to be the Dad who shoves his politics down his kids’ throats.  So I focus on the stuff I consider foundational, like the idea that police are subject to the law.  I told them that if someone random attacks you, you call the police.  If the police attack you, who do you call?  That’s why it’s extra important that the police follow the law.

It’s a tough balance.  At ten and thirteen, they’re still looking for good guys and bad guys, and for all the right reasons.  They want to be on the side of right.  That’s a good instinct.  Nuance can be a tall order for a fifth grader.  

So I see my job as allowing bits of truth to get through as they seem capable of making sense of them, and providing context after the fact when unwelcome things get around the filter.  Plant the seed now that authority figures are only human, and just let it grow.  I didn’t hide that I was upset about what happened to Michael Brown in Missouri.  Start with a basic respect for common decency, and go from there.  

In the meantime, I want them to have enough of a visceral sense of safety that when they get older and that sense isn’t present, they notice.  And enough of a visceral sense of fairness that when it’s violated, they notice that, too.  

I followed Robin Williams’ career for thirty-five years.  I’ll miss him.  I never met Michael Brown, but his loss bothers me more.  As they get older, I hope the kids will come to understand why.

I'm looking forward to Dantes's assertion that they all had it coming.

No . . . no, I'm not.
The reason our police have guns is so they can defend themselves. If you think it's so they can shoot criminals, then you've been watching too much TV. Aside from its bearing on self defense, whether or not the criminal is armed has nothing to do with it. Micheal Brown was shot because he was charging and threatening the life of the police officer.

Clearly, my kids feel bad about what happened to Darren Wilson. Just because race hucksters want more fame others want to stoke racial animus, his family has to leave town and make a new life. My kids also feel bad about all of the victims of race-baiting propaganda. If Michael Brown had not been taught to hate, he might now be a success story instead of being dead. It's a crying shame and we need to stop promoting the grievance industry that provokes all of this tragedy.
Policemen and policewomen are people with the same fears and reactions and hormones as every other person and they aren't all good, so one must be respectful to all of them.

They just happen to have society's approval for carrying a firearm and society's requirement that they protect all people. Some questions occur to me which were not asked or answered in the media.

Was Michael Brown in the habit of using his size to intimidate others?
From what I saw on the video, he did push the storekeeper before he left the tobacco store. Was this habitual intimidating behavior he used?

Did Officer Wilson flash back to being bullied in the past and felt the same fear and anxiety when Mr. Brown grabbed at him through his open car window causing him to lose awareness of who and where he was?

Did the flashback and the hormones released in his body from being grabbed make him do something he would have not done otherwise? Shoot a man many times?

Police persons are persons and have the same fears, memories, and reactions as other persons.

I raised two sons. When my sons began to drive, I told them that if they were ever approached by a police officer when on foot or in a car, to stay still and speak respectfully. To not argue nor make quick movements. That we would handle any misbehavior on the officer's part when the boys were safe.

My sons are white, but they are males and teen males, regardless of color, can become targets for some police. Not all police officers are kindly helpful people.

Dean Dad, you might have the same kind of conversation with your son when he begins driving and becoming independent of you. Granted, young men of color have an added burden of behaving respectfully and non-belligerently toward officers, but no one is immune from mistreatment by a police officer.

In fact, when my son was about 20, he was driving his black friend and another white friend to a place. He was stopped for a broken headlight. The policeman had only been able to see the black friend. The police officer called back up and had my son and his two friends exit the car, spread their legs and put their hands on the car while the police searched them and the car. The police found nothing. My son received a ticket. The next day my son filed a complaint with the police department stating that racial bias was present. He had to pay the fine, but the city's attorney agreed that the police officer had been unnecessarily hostile. I think my son and his friends would not have been treated that way if one of the friends had not been black.

That is the world we live in today, sadly. But to protect our sons, of any color, we must teach them to always be respectful of peace officers and not make any belligerent behavior or moves.

"If Michael Brown had not been taught to hate, he might now be a success story instead of being dead."

The Klan's probably recruiting in your area, if you're looking for like-minded folk.

Your remarks are a bit dated now that we have seen the sworn testimony of a number of witnesses who, starting with interviews at the time of the event, told a story consistent with other evidence. I now consider it highly likely that, unlike the case in NYC, a dash cam or body cam would support the finding of the Grand Jury.

What I hope you tell your kids, and wish more parents would tell their kids, is that the law IS different for police officers who are on duty in uniform. Civilians have a right to defend themselves, but police have both a right and an obligation to defend everyone, which can mean taking the offensive. They can grab you, but you cannot grab them, even if all other things are equal.

I was glad I was taught some of this when I was young, because it helped me on more than one occasion. That said, I was never told that police are as likely to have been bullies as kids as other people, or that they can hold racial or other prejudices, sometimes as a result of the very nasty world they work in. Some spend every day in places I assiduously avoid even in daytime, and most know someone who has been killed or wounded in the line of duty.

I think "hate" is the wrong word in Gabby's comment. Respect is a better word. Michael Brown did seem to have a shortage of respect for others, including persons in a position of authority. I don't know about your college, but students like that usually cause at least half of the problems that Deans have to deal with.
Nah, the Dash Cam would have recorded the initial shakedown attempt Wilson attempted on Brown as well as any threats made toward Brown or his family.

Remember, 3 warrants per household on Ferguson. Every interaction between the cops and a citizen of Ferguson is just an extension of the protection racket.

There is only one reason not to have Dash Cams. Getting away with murdering some kid over jaywalking is a subset of that reason.

You did notice that there were TWO people walking down the middle of the road (which is not jaywalking), and that one of them ended up being involved only as a spectator when the other was shot at close range in a way the left his blood inside the police car, right? Little is said about his actions and how those resulted in a different outcome for him.

If that officer was involved in extortion on a regular basis, a claim that is entirely new to me in this case, that is an even better reason to have dash cams in every car. Where I live, they have helped identify bad people on both side of the badge.
Every officer in Ferguson was involved in a systematic extortion scheme. That is the only method by which you can achieve the astonishing metric of three warrants per household.
And, for the nth time, there is exactly and only one reason not to have dash cams.
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