My traffic stop

Years ago I was stopped by a Phoenix policeman in the middle of the day.  I steered my 10-year-old Datsun to the curb.  The officer was young, possibly Hispanic.  He acted nervous.  His hand hovered too close to his holster for comfort.  I worried he might do something rash.

The officer explained why I was stopped.  He said I made a left turn too close to an oncoming car.  What a crock!  I thought.  But I did not complain.  I was courteous and tried to act calm.  I produced the documents required by Arizona law:  Driver’s license, proof of insurance and car title.  I wanted to make sure the situation did not escalate.  And it didn’t.  I got off with only a warning.  And I was alive and unwounded.

I wish more blacks would learn to obey police officers, even when it’s thought they have been racially profiled.  You never know what kind of cop you’re talking with until things get out of hand.  By then, it may be too late.

If I’m a leader of Black Lives Matter, I urge my followers to obey the police at all cost.  Your pride, your ego is not worth a casket.  I would educate them.  I would tell them the documents they need to have on their person or in the vehicle.  I would try to save their lives, not use their dead bodies to further my political aims.

The Cincinnati shooting

No sooner had I finished yesterday’s post, “Black lives that don’t matter,” another incident of a policeman shooting an unarmed black man was at the top of the news.  And again, a black man, who apparently was not cooperating fully with police, needlessly ended up dead.

Ray Tensing, a campus police officer for the University of Cincinnati, was indicted on a murder charge for the shooting of Samuel Dubose during what a university official described as a “petty, chicken crap” traffic stop.  Mr. Dubose had not displayed a front license plate, though he produced one from his glove box.

The incident was captured on a video camera worn by the officer.

When stopped everything goes along smoothly at first for Mr. Dubose, although he does seem confused about where his driver’s license might be.  The officer asks about a bottle on the car floor.  Dubose hands him the bottle, which is described as gin.  After placing the bottle atop the car, things begin to escalate quickly.  According to the New York Times:

“Officer Tensing starts to open the driver’s door and tells Mr. Dubose to remove his seatbelt.  Mr. Dubose pulls the door closed again and restarts his car.”

 The shooting takes place seconds later.

Had he done what the officer asked, Dubose would likely be alive today.  Isn’t that what’s important?  To live.

Outside the Hamilton County Courthouse in Cincinnati, peaceful protestors chanted, “Black lives matter.  I am Sam Dubose.”

Again, I agree.  Black lives matter.  But why do black civil rights leaders avoid confronting the truth.  If organizations like Black Lives Matter truly believe their words, they would protect their constituents by preaching compliance, not resistance, when facing police.  Just as the Rev. Martin Luther King would have back in 1960s.

But the senseless Black Lives Matter movement needs martyrs.  And it got another one with Samuel Dubose.

Black lives that don’t matter

I believe black lives matter.  I also believe that to the Black Lives Matter movement, those black lives don’t matter.  What the BLM wants are dead black bodies.  What the movement requires are martyrs to keep its agenda rolling and the newly-found power of its leaders intact.

In thinking about the recent tragedy of Sandra Bland in Waller County, Texas, I see a pattern going back to the Ferguson incident with Michael Brown and continuing with the deaths of Eric Garner and Walter Scott.  What did they have in common beside being black and dying after controversial encounters with law enforcement?  Here’s what.  They resisted.  They failed to obey white policemen.  And now they are dead.  Obeying police, no matter how wrong the police are.  That’s a part of the story that is lost on the media.

In the Bland case, just forget for a moment that she was found dead in her jail cell, apparently a victim of suicide by hanging.  Just forget about the silly driving violation for which she was stopped.  And forget about the disgusting and aggressive behavior of the police officer who stopped her.  These are separate issues.

The bottom line is this.  Ms. Bland would likely be alive today if she had cooperated with the officer when he asked her to put out her cigarette.  She was smart.  She knew blacks always lose when they confront police.  She knew the law was being twisted, likely because her skin was not white.  And, as it turned out, she was dead right.

I first became leery of this unfortunate evolution in civil rights protesting with the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.  He was shot while resisting a police officer.  Remember the lie that was told?  “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” I don’t believe for a moment Brown’s hands were anything more than fists of hatred.  As black deaths mounted in this and other celebrated cases the Black Lives Matter movement gathered steam.

BLM couldn’t have picked a worse example than Brown to push its agenda.

Not long before he was shot and killed, a video camera in a convenience store caught Brown stealing cigarillos. When confronted by the store’s clerk, Brown, a huge man, spun around and walked menacingly toward him.  Brown was clearly someone with an attitude.  When stopped by a policeman, Brown physically accosted the officer who was in his police car.  Whatever the principle involved, Brown would probably be alive today if he had chosen to cooperate and take his medicine.

The same holds true with Garner in New York and Scott in South Carolina.  In Scott’s case, he was shot down in cold-blood while fleeing on foot.  Fleeing, to my mind, is stupid.

If black lives matter, I would hope BLM would be preaching a message to its constituents.  Go out into the communities and beseech them:  Obey the police when stopped no matter how racist you think the system is.  Swallow your pride, eat your anger and live.  That’s the message I would be sending.

None of the victims deserved to die for any “crime” they committed in these incidents.

But what matters to the BLM, it seems, is to ring up a steady river of black deaths to keep its agenda at the top of the news.  To preach peaceful resistance these days is anathema to the cause.

I have this vision of the 1960s civil rights movement in The South under the nonviolent philosophy of the Rev. Martin Luther King.  I remember news reels showing black protesters.  They were arrested and carried over to police vans.  None that I recall resisted.  They simply allowed themselves to be sent to jail.

In the end, these protestors not only lived but changed the world at least in some small way.  The BLM seems to have lost Dr. King’s message.  Maybe they no longer see it as a viable alternative to the rampant racism that has emerged after the election of President Obama in 2008.

Still, I say, live to fight another day, in another way.  But live.  Life matters.

The “hero” mania

The word “hero” confuses me.  It has for a long time.  In America, “hero” is conferred so often it has become all but meaningless.   If, say, an American does a Boy Scout-good deed, the media laud him as a hero.

This hero mania, I believe is purely American.  I don’t think this neurosis is prevalent in other advanced countries, particularly the ones more sophisticated than ours like in western Europe and Scandanavia.

The trigger point arrived recently.

Donald Trump, the GOP presidential candidate, questioned whether Arizona Senator John McCain, a fellow Republican, was a war hero only because of being a former POW.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said, before later backtracking. “He was a hero because he was captured.  I like people who weren’t captured.”

In retreat, Trump said, “If somebody is a prisoner, I consider him a war hero”  So now Trump can have it both ways.

The trouble with “hero” is that there is no precise definition.  We can make a “hero” out of anyone we choose.  Dad gave a dime to a poor man.  Ah, a hero.

I have no statistics to prove it, but I believe this hero sickness started with 9/11.   Americans suddenly realized on that tragic date they were no longer safe on home soil.  Not only is that a fearful thought but it has led to serious doubts about who we are as a country.  No matter how great we say our country is, an inferiority complex resides deep inside us.  And that’s the basis, I think for the “hero” mania that absorbs us now.

By finding “heroes” on every corner, Americans feel better about themselves.  It is a myth of course, and we will have to deal with reality somewhere down the line.

Deal with reality or die as a country.