There's been quite the hullabaloo going on these past few days about Skip Gates and his encounter with the Cambridge police. Even more noise about one choice word spoken by President Obama in reaction to that encounter: "stupid." People all around the country have been all fired up against Obama for that one little word, to the point that a CBS poll shows 89% of Americans think that it was wrong of Obama to call that officer stupid. Let that sink in for a moment. 89% of Americans think that the United States Commander In Chief was wrong to call a police officer, his lowest subordinate in the Executive Branch, "stupid."
I got an earful about it when I walked into the local bakery. "Can you believe our President called a police officer stupid?!" The woman's outrage was palpable, and she was even more disgusted when I did not mirror that outrage.
To me, this issue has nothing to do with whether the officer was racially profiling Mr. Gates, or whether his neighbor is a bigot, or whether Skip Gates was a belligerent asshole on his own property. It has to do with the notion that the head of the Executive Branch of our government cannot criticize a subordinate member of that branch, particularly when what that subordinate did goes against standard police procedure. Several honest cops since that incident have come forward stating that what the officer did that night was not standard procedure, that he escalated the situation when his job was to de-escalate it. He pulled a power trip in response to what he saw as a citizen getting uppity and personally insulting, and now his thin skin has been extended to encompass the entire Cambridge police force, and far beyond it.
If police officers cannot handle the word "stupid" being leveled against one of their members, what else can they not handle? What about the word "corrupt?" What about "power-hungry?" What about just plain "wrong?"
I understand the political position that Obama is in now as a result of all this popular outrage over him criticizing the officer who arrested his friend. I don't like the fact that he apologized for his statement, but I understand it. What concerns me now is that the police have just exercised a silent coup, giving themselves carte blanche to do what they like to ordinary citizens without fear of public criticism by their boss. And considering what the police have been up to in recent years in terms of increased beatings, tazering, random roadblocks, and so forth, that carte blanche is a lot more dangerous than anybody but a tin-foil-hat-wearer like myself is willing to admit.
And that much-vaunted change that Obama and his supporters were talking about during the election? Bullshit. 89% of the country is up in arms over the word "stupid," but can't recognize "stupid" when they see it. Nor, apparently, do they recognize "police state." The vile behavior engaged in by the Bush administration, the erosion of our rights, the increase in police power (and armaments) - I now realize that all of these things were signed off on by the American people. They weren't mistakes. They were the natural end result of people thinking that the police are above reproach, and uppity citizens have no business saying otherwise.
I have never been so ashamed of my country as I am at this moment.