Guilty or Innocent?


The morning of the day I was to write this week’s piece I heard part of Democracy Now!’s follow-up piece about the incident that led to the trilateral— police-officer, president, professor — Beer Summit last summer. It seems the Cambridge police department was due to release a report about the incident on this day. Being interviewed was Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree on his book The Presumption of Guilt: The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Race, Class and Crime in America.

You’ll recall, President Obama describing what the police officer did as “stupid”. Of course this was the headline grabber, while he’d said much more, addressing the history of unequal harassment (my choice of terminology) of “black and brown” people in the U.S.

Of course Obama was right in his description, but caught a lot of flack and did a lot of unneeded explaining. The professor, a black man, arriving at home without a key, was trying to break in when a neighbor reported what was going. When challenged by the police officer, the professor produced a picture ID documenting his position and address, and further, suggesting the officer contact the Harvard University police who knew him. How else would you describe the officer’s subsequent belligerence? There IS a history of unequal treatment. But there’s also a history of law-enforcement arrogance— I can easily conceive of the same thing happening to anyone. This arrogance rises, somewhat unavoidably, from the empowerment that peace officers must have— they carry weapons, they must be obeyed. Couple this with the fortress/siege mentality that attends police departments (and any other paramilitary structures) who are pulled in many, often opposing, directions, and you have a perfect recipe for stupid behaviors.

But stupid behavior— arrogance, power, and/or fortress based —is not limited to police. Professors (as many of us who’ve spent a few years on campuses) and presidents also suffer the same affliction. In this case, it’s the latter that’s the object of discussion.

How stupid of Barak Obama to renege on his promise to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide. Here, the stupidity stems clearly from the arrogance of power— being the head of the most powerful state the planet has ever witnessed—and the prerogatives, pressures, and politics of the position. So perhaps our President’s moral compass has become a bit confused.

How else to explain the “pass” given to Azerbaijan’s aggression against Artzakh last week, resulting in death and injury on both sides? The mealy-mouthed statement issued by France, Russia, and the U.S. does not condemn the attack. Not only is the aggressor effectively absolved, it is found innocent. How do you think a second-generation megalomaniac like Ilham Aliev will interpret that? I’m guessing, “Carte blanche, let’s go kill us some Armenians!”

Get on the phone, fax, e-mail, or any other mode of communication and let your president and other federal elected representatives know that enough’s enough. Sanctioning Azeri/Turkish aggression—be it diplomatic or military is not acceptable. Advocate cutting foreign and military aid to both countries, terminating trade with them, and throwing out their diplomats!


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One Comment;

  1. Armen said:

    Great article Garen (though I think the Professor was more culpable than the policeman for the arrest).