Wednesday, July 22, 2009

An Answer to Humbly's Question


Dear Humbly Presumptuous,

The short answer is: no.

Prof. Gates' reaction to the behavior of the policemen is not only understandable: it is in a certain sense precisely the reaction of a sane man, whose rights have been violated.

This was not an exchange at a conference that became heated: this was the power of the state being used to drag a man from his own home and haul him to prison.

It is outrageous.

That Prof. Gates' reaction is more than simply understandable, is visible from another aspect as well: let me illustrate by analogy with pacifists.

The mistake pacifists make is that they assume to erect a personal Christian response to the call to charity, into a principle of justice.

As we are fond of saying: martyrdom may not be by proxy.

Prof. Gates was not simply a private citizen encountering a police officer having a bad day.

He was manhandled because of the color of his skin - and therefore a representative (in the Voegelinian sense of the truth of existence) of all African-Americans, who continue to suffer the indignity of being considered suspects only because of their pigmentation - and even of all Americans, for whom the home is still the ultimissimum refugium, to be defended at all costs, against any power whatsoever.

I strongly disagree with your reading of the matter.

Fondly,

LD

2 comments:

Clayton said...

Every story has two sides. Here's the story as the police officer himself tells it: in the Washington Post.

Lazy Disciple said...

Dear Clayton,

There are two sides to every story, it is true.

The one thing that matters in this story is that Prof. Gates was arrested on his own property and dragged from his own front porch in handcuffs.

As soon as the policeman ascertained Prof. Gates' identity, there was only one thing to do: turn on his heel and leave.

The POTUS is right: the policeman acted stupidly.

Was Gates a model of aplomb?

Probably not.

Neither would I have been, if I should have found myself in his shoes.

The only thing causing Prof. Gates' behavior was the continued presence of the policeman.

That is it, and, that is all of it.

Best,
LD