Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"A Very High Status Guy Trying To Bully The Cop"

The story of Professor Henry Louis Gates being arrested as he tried to get into his own home is horrifying and shameful.

But I'm sure everyone's wondering: what does Jonah Goldberg think?
Lots of email has come in since last night when I posted about Henry Louis Gates' arrest. The responses from readers are interesting in that they reflect a divide running through conservatives I've noticed before. About half the readers think Gates' is hilariously in the wrong. The other half, give or take, think that the cop was transparently to blame for the whole mess. That's a gross generalization of several dozen emails, but I think it reflects how conservatives, like Americans generally, are of two views when it comes to cops. One side is inclined to distrust them, see them as potential abusers of authority —  mere men with badges and guns. Another side is deferential to police. That is not to say they condone abuse or sanction cops being above the law. But they give cops the benefit of the doubt for a host of reasons.

I'm more in the latter camp. I think being a cop is a very tough job, requiring a lot of patience and decency, with lots of headaches. And, I believe that citizens should err on the side of trying to make cops' jobs a little easier.  Yes, I've had confrontations with police before and I don't think they were always in the right. But as a matter of instinct, that's where I come down. But I know plenty of conservatives — including many relatives — who instantly assume the cops are just taking advantage of a little power and are loathe to defer to them.

I don't think this divide is unique to conservatives. As I say, I think it runs straight through the American, and, no doubt,  human heart. But it's interesting in this context because I think conservatives are expected to be far more deferential to law enforcement. And, when I read the Gates' police report, I immediately sympathized with the cop who had to deal with a very high status guy trying to bully the cop in part by accusing him — unfairly, by my lights —  of racism. It's very interesting to read lots of conservatives offer good faith disagreements.
What an ass.

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