Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Stupid Police in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Did the police officer, Sgt. James Crowley, who arrested Henry Louis Gates, Jr., professor and director of Harvard's African-American research center, act stupidly? President Obama, during his latest prime-time news conference, said he did.

Here's the police report, once posted by the Boston Globe but now pulled. There were several witnesses at the scene, Gates' home, where the officer had been dispatched to investigate a potential burglary in progress. President Obama wasn't one of them.

Maybe in the President's mind, everyone has the right to yell, threaten, ignore repeated warnings to "calm down," and to throw a tantrum after a police officer asks a few basic questions in response to another citizen's call.

Perhaps Professor Gates should have a discussion with someone's mama about disorderly conduct and how it's against the law. And the national chief executive should explain why he's encouraging anyone who thinks they are being treated unfairly to disregard and abuse law enforcement officers carrying out their sworn duties. Hint: Don't try it with the Secret Service, BATF or the FBI.

Prosecutors dropped the charge against Gates Tuesday, which seems reasonable to me. A fine or time in the city jail would serve no useful purpose. Hopefully Gates will find some good mental health care. He's a victim of racial profiling, which he describes in this magazine interview.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Smooth Operator

Nah, this post doesn't have much relevance to Sade's 1985 single detailing the life of a cold-hearted, jet-set gigolo nor removing noise from data. So if a search engine brought you to this remote corner of the Web by error ...

"No place for beginners or sensitive hearts When sentiment is left to chance. No place to be ending but somewhere to start."

Europe between 1938 and 1945 was no place for beginners or sensitive hearts, so Winston Churchill tasked "The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare," or the Special Operations Executive (SOE), to pry it back from the Third Reich. The average life expectancy of SOE agents serving in occupied territory was six weeks despite their extensive training.

Etienne and Violette Szabó during their honeymoon

Some SOE agents were particularly ungentlemanly--they were women. Section F of the SOE employed 39 female agents in occupied France. Thirteen never returned. Of those, Violette Szabó, who volunteered as an agent after her husband Etienne was killed at El Alamein, is most likely the best known. Szabó, the second woman to receive the George Cross, was beaten, raped, starved, and eventually executed and cremated at the Ravensbrück concentration camp with three other female SOE agents shortly before it was liberated by Allied forces.

If you're like me, avoiding the noise about important issues of the day such as a universal health care "right" that "the rich" are going to pay for, there's relief and lessons to learn from history. Then, rather than working and paying taxes, one can take solace in some Violette Szabó-inspired movies, books and even a video game, Violet Assassin.

I don't think Gervase Cowell, an ex-MI6 officer and British Special Forces Club historian, had Violet Assassin or morphine in mind when he told Queen Elizabeth II, "I help the old to remember and the young to understand."

Friday, July 3, 2009

WWJP: What would Jesus Pack?

I have no doubt Jesus, as range master, oversees a deluxe firearms training facility in Heaven. When he comes again, he'll be toting heat. After all, what we know about Jesus Christ from scripture reveals he was a practical, tactical thinker when he walked among us.

Worship planners at a Louisville, Ky., church held a service June 27 where all were invited to carry their personal sidearms, albeit unloaded. The church also raffled off safety lessons, a concealed carry class and a new handgun.

I'm armed when attending church. I don't check the ammo at the door, either. It's always been peaceful at my church, and it doesn't bother me in the least that the people around me might be carrying as well. When I was in law enforcement, it didn't alarm me when I encountered law-abiding, ordinary Americans, who our current president says he understands, carrying weapons. In fact I assumed my fellow citizens were not much different from me--most of us own firearms and have been using them safely since we could hoist and level one at a target. As far as distrusting or fearing these armed, peaceful, outstanding people, it's not my nature to do so.

Granted, there are some who, in the pursuit of nefarious ends, have abused the power that flows from gun barrels. Despots, felons or any individual or group who takes their freedom to pursue life, liberty, and happiness to the point of stripping others of their same freedom readily seek such power for themselves. Then there are cretins who happen to possess guns along with other useful but dangerous objects such as golf clubs, baseball bats, a bathroom door ripped off its hinges, or extension cords that they use to maim and kill others.

Fortunately none of the latter have shown up in any church I've frequented. It is true a small number of cretins roam our communities, and sometimes they do come into worship centers shooting. If so, it would relieve me if the preacher, Aunt Mabel, or someone in the choir could make a clean, safe hit on him if I couldn't. To lump my fellow citizens in with the cretins as people to be distrusted or feared doesn't make sense.

It does encourage me to see fellow Christians who truly love their neighbors even when they're wearing handguns. I'd never ridicule, raise objections or consider a brother or sister in Christ an "extremist" or "gun nut" for taking steps to protect themselves and others from evildoers. When I pass the peace to other members of my congregation, I truly mean it. To let my fear, mistrust and desire to control others make them more vulnerable in the face of evil--how would that reflect my level of discipleship and faith? So, by all means, bring your guns to church. Hey! Don't forget to load 'em.

This is Independence Day. I'll close with thoughts Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, shared at his inauguration as our third president in 1801.

"Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the governance of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question."

Guns in church, along with so many other things, is a matter of trusting ordinary Americans to govern themselves, a practice Jefferson considered democratic. Aristocrats practice the opposite, as he explained in an 1824 letter to Henry Lee. Trust or distrust? Jefferson's question of liberty will truly be answered in time. That's change we can believe in.