I am stubborn. It is not just my wife who tells me this, it is something that's been told to me by parents, teachers, superior officers, colleagues, bosses, salespeople, repairmen, and just about everyone who has known me long enough to get into a discussion with me.
I am not, of course, stubborn. What I am is right. Well, mostly. It is only when I am wrong that I am stubborn. When I am right and it isn't acknowledged it is the other person who is stubborn, is it not?
In any given disagreement, one side is more wrong than the other. You will note I did not say "one side is right and the other is wrong." What I am saying is that disagreements happen when each party believes it is right. The art of avoiding argument is to acknowledge the possibility of being wrong. And that is where the mutual wrongness comes into play.
Recently, there was a disagreement between a police officer and a citizen in Boston. You may have heard or read about this incident. I'd like to examine it carefully and objectively, if I may.
To summarize the incident as objectively as possible, a police officer was called to an address to investigate a possible break in. The initial report came from a neighbor of the house where the possible crime may be being committed.
After a short period of time, according to witnesses, the resident of the house was arrested on his front porch while being loud and agitated.
The resident is a professor of African-American Studies at nearby Harvard University.
The above entails all of the actual facts that we know to be true. The rest, at this point, is all hearsay. We do not know what the actual verbal exchanges were between the two principals in the matter.
Now, let me relate an incident which happened in my youth...
I was driving a car between Orlando and Hallandale in Florida. I was on a state highway, traveling at the speed limit (about 30 MPH at that point) and exiting the town of Pahokee. I was 17 at the time. The car was loaded with clothes in the back seat and various other items in the trunk.
A Florida Highway Patrol car moved up behind me and with flashing lights and a burst of his siren, indicated that I should pull over. Not being stupid, nor doing anything criminal at the moment (or relatively recently), I complied.
The officer walked up to my car, asked for my driver's license and registration and queried me about where I was going. He was polite. So was I as I complied with his request.
Without telling me why he had pulled me over, he asked me to open the trunk of my car. As we walked back to the rear of the car, another Highway Patrol car pulled up behind the first and that officer got out, joining us at the rear of my car.
I opened the trunk and stood slightly back away as the officers peered inside. The first officer noticed a box. Specifically an old .50 caliber ammo box. I informed him that it was my toolbox when he asked me what it was doing in my trunk.
I then said, "Here, I'll show you." And reached in to open it.
At that point, the second officer grabbed the butt of his pistol and started to remove it from his holster. The first officer merely grabbed my arm and told me to stop.
He then said, "Let me do that." And opened the box himself which revealed... tools.
I spent the next half hour or so while the first officer verified my driver's license, ascertained that there were no warrants for me or the car, and basically checked out my story that I was in the process of moving to Hallandale with my parents who were a couple of hours ahead of me.
Had I gotten indignant about being stopped for no apparent reason other than that I was a teenager driving through this remote town with a plate that identified me as coming from about 125 miles north of it, things could have gotten a little ugly. Had I moved a little faster to open that box, or the first officer mimicked the second on resorting to pulling his gun, I might have been facing a couple of .357 magnums up close and personal.
Why do I relate this story along with the previous? Simple.
Even as a young man of 17, not yet out of high school, I knew it was not smart to be impolite to a police officer.
Right or wrong, I would have suffered the worst of it.
Why does a college professor of 58 years not also know that simple fact?
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago