Sunday, July 24, 2016

Black Lives and Blue Lives Matter; Plagiarism a Small Symbol of Problems in Trump's Campaign; and Other Reflections

Some reflections on recent events. 

The Republican Convention's first night reminded me of a B-movie in which a businessman gets nominated for president. Trump and his wife looked the parts, but B-pictures rarely had top stars. Mr. and Mrs. Trump were a little wooden. Not quite convincing.

Melania's plagiarism of Michelle Obama ain't no big thing; but it's typical of Trump's sloppy campaign. Most of us would have had the speech vetted by speechwriters and lawyers; but Trump knows better. What Trump does must be right. Campaign vehemently denies plagiarism, then blames speechwriter, who falls on her sword. She says Melania, who admires Michelle, read her the words over the phone, and she didn't check to be sure they weren't Michelle's exact words; but when she hands the speech to Melania, why doesn't Melania notice how exactly the speech tracks Michelle's words? 

Someone called introducing VP and wife “layups.” Trump missed one and committed a foul on the second.

I was sorry to hear Undersheriff Eddie Lerma resigned. Several DASO officers told me they were sorry to hear it too. According to them, Lerma was kind of sorry too. They say Lerma was surprised to hear from Sheriff Vigil that he had resigned, mostly because he hadn't. 

Moving on: there is no excuse for assassinating police officers. No sane person would do it. No sensible person would defend it.

Black lives matter. Should be obvious, but needs saying because our society doesn't quite seem to realize it. 

Blue lives matter. Also obvious, but people forget it. Police shooting of young blacks help people forget that blue lives matter, particularly when too many of those shootings seem indefensible. But blue lives matter.

Most obviously all lives matter. People shouting black lives matter don't mean other lives don't. But our society doesn't need reminding that white lives matter. We assume it. I hope the people shouting “blue lives matter” also know that all lives matter. They just don't get why many blacks hate police or why many whites mostly ignore cops when cops risk their lives daily and many of them truly want to serve. 

People shouting “All lives matter!” as if that solved the real problems others are pointing to, are clue-impaired.

We all need to to communicate better. Particularly police and black communities. How do we help that happen? 

Forty years ago in this town I was a young radical with long hair. One night I entered a house with two police officers, after neighbors called in a burglary-in-progress. Typical Cruces house: hallway with doors to bedrooms or bathrooms on both sides. At the end of the hall, on the left, a door opened. One cop jumped into a bedroom. I jumped into a bedroom. The lead cop had nowhere to go. He pointed his gun and shouted “Freeze!” as a tall Hispanic man emerged. 

Turned out the guy was a friend of the absent homeowners. The neighbors hadn't known he would be staying there. He'd been napping. Fortunately he quietly raised his hands. Startled out of sleep, he could have made some sudden move. I realized how easily the cop might have shot him, and that I'd probably be testifying for the cop. The cop realized the same thing. He was literally shaking as he spoke softly of what might so easily have happened. 

We could try not judging people nearly so much.

We can implement good ideas, positive steps for our community. Such as the detention center citizens advisory committee? Good idea. Commissioners liked it. Sank like a stone in a pond.

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 24 July, and will appear presently on the KRWG website, where my friend Algernon D'Ammassa has articulated some similar thoughts and feeling in a column urging us to unite Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter.]

[There's obviously a lot more to say about several of the topics I touch on above.  I mention one personal experience that helped me understand the challenges police face; but both before and after that I had many experiences that illustrate the extra challenges police pose for ethnic minorities (and political dissenters, sometimes).  Saw it in the South in the mid-'60's, where it was blatant racism and not limited to the police.  

But racism was never limited to the South; and it wasn't and isn't limited to police.  Rather, because police are on the front lines the racism shows up more often and more dramatically (and tragically).  I saw it in the late '60's in New York, where people stared when I was out with a black woman and where a black friend and I acted out little riffs (one of us pretending to be the other's servant) to mock or challenge people; I saw it in San Francisco, where my best friend in San Francisco, who was also one of the best lawyers in town, not only got stopped for being a big black man in a spiffy convertible but even had police come and question him when they saw him washing his car in his own driveway -- and when I watched a very white and conservative general partner in a law firm unconsciously start trying to imitate ghetto jive when he went over to that same friend at a party; and in D.C. in the 1990's, where a younger lawyer noticed that whites sometimes crossed the street at night just to avoid passing him on the sidewalk.   

These people weren't "racist" in the sense George Wallace of Strom Thurmond or David Duke was, where it was a passionate cause central to their existence; they were just, they would have said, being careful.  Prudent.   But it's that same instinct (encouraged, yes, by the fact that young black men are disproportionately represented both among killers of police and among victims of police shootings) that too often leads a cop to pull his gun and use it a lot more quickly with a black citizen than with a white citizen.]

[As to Trump's campaign, I agree with the Washington Post, which recently editorialized that Trump (regardless of ideology, of which he has none except growing the Trump brand) poses a danger unique among Presidential candidates because of his pathological narcissism.  A friend at the market asked me what I thought a Trump Presidency would be like, and I replied that the danger is, we don't know.  Trump has been on both sides of most issues, has rarely if ever read a book, has no real "center" as a man or a politician.  But we do know he has lied pathologically, about everything from his father's ethnicity (claiming Swedish when the truth was German) and his wife's education (degree in design, when she apparently attended a few first-year college classes) to his own career (downplaying the fact that his father gave him $7 million -- real money back then -- to start with and then bailed him out repeatedly and co-signed the loans for his first big project; when Trump and his siblings sold just some of his father's real estate holdings in New York a few years after Fred Trump died, that brought in nearly a half billion dollars).  Sure, Hillary has changed her position on some issues, as most politicians (and most people, if they keep learning as they mature) have done; but Trump has no real positions.

So Melania Trump's plagiarism, small in itself and not terribly unusual fits right in; but the fact that no one caught it is telling.  "An error like the one Melania Trump committed last night tells us that the Trump campaign lacks seriousness and structure, which is also demonstrated by its divisive style, weak ground game, and poor fund-raising numbers," commented Michael Gerson, formerly George W. Bush's chief speechwriter.

Above all, try to read   Jane Mayer's piece on Trump in the latest New Yorker issue, including a detailed interview of the man who wrote The Art of the Deal for Trump.  It rings very true.]

We can implement good ideas, positive steps for our community. Such as the detention center citizens advisory committee? Good idea. Commissioners liked it. Sank like a stone in a pond.

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