Saturday, August 01, 2009

Aerobics of the Mind

I want us to do a little exercise here. I don't want to have a discussion about the arrest of Professor Gates. I want to agree that none of us was there and, while it clearly went poorly, we can't say how or why. I just want us to do a little exercise.

I want each of us to picture someone close to us. The closest person who is white, male, of above average education, with a home of his own, either owned or rented. This person should have a sense of his place in the world and an ability to express his opinions with no shyness about doing so.

Now picture that person coming home from a trip. It's night time and he may be tired, he may even have to pee. His key won't work and there is no one home to let him in. His cab driver stays with him to help him with the lock which may be quite nice and may be an added annoyance. After many frustrating minutes the police arrive and, on a credible tip, ask your person's intentions. They request proof of ID and residence and receive two forms of it. At least one form has his picture on it. At least one form has the address in front of which they currently stand on it. These answers are inadequate for the purposes of the police officers.

Please answer just one question - does your person lose his temper?


  1. In the situation as you describe it, yes, my person would, at the very least, begin to get a little hot under the collar.

    However, if you're willing to believe the police, the situation did not occur as you're describing it.

    Here's the actual police report submitted by Sgt. Crowley:

  2. key words...if you're willing to believe the police.

    Now. My friends in the Beer Business are ALL OVER the get together this week at the White House.

    The Pres had a Bud Light.
    The professor had a Red Stripe.
    The cop had a Blue Moon.


  3. "Key words..."

    Very true. Much as we would all prefer to hope otherwise, police officers are as likely to lie as anybody else.

    Nevertheless, I've found another couple of articles that seem to shed some further light on the subject:


  4. Funny, when I first heard about this I was imagining myself in that situation, since my husband and I were travelling overseas ourselves.

    And I realized that, while my husband would probably not lose his temper, I probably would have gone through the roof, myself.

    I actually am slightly acquainted with Professor Gates - my husband and he were colleagues long ago. He was very polite and kind to me - at the time I was a young mother with a newborn baby.

  5. The wise person would NOT lose his temper because he would recognize that it is not to his benefit to antagonize members of a group whose instinctive reaction (borne of extensive training) will always be to maintain control of the situation.

    The person I had in mind, however offronted and debased the situation as you describe it might make him feel, would not allow circumstances to get the better of him. He has incredible self control, though. I'm not sure *I* would do as well.

  6. Boy, did he ever.
    Then he went out and slashed some tires.