Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

A beer with the Prez

Obama, Gates, and Crowley

Some think that George W. Bush became president because most Americans could imagine themselves sharing a beer with him.

That was before we all knew that he wasn't drinking any these days. But he is certainly the kind of friendly, engaging guy you wouldn't mind meeting at a neighborhood pig roast.

Barack Obama, not so much. Maybe it's the beer that throws us off. He's more a chardonnay kinda guy. It's hard to imagine him wearing shorts and a polo shirt. The conversation might get serious fast. But watch out if the party migrates to the basketball hoop in the driveway.

Still, I would love to be one of those flies on the wall (or the unprotected potato salad) when Obama shares a really good American microbrew with police officer James Crowley and professor Henry Gates. Both men have accepted his invitation to talk about what happened in Cambridge, race and the police in general, and how people look at things through the glass of their own experience.

I've been engaged in some lively arguments about what happened and who was at fault when the police questioned Gates about what looked like breaking into what turned out to be his own house. My best guess, until today, was that both men over-reacted, and my stronger sympathies were with Gates. I've known people who were mishandled and lied about by arrogant police.

"When the police talk, shut up and obey" is a practical rule but it shouldn't be the only rule.

Today I'm leaning toward Crowley.

Partly that's because of the two men's responses to the invitation.

Gates said, "My entire academic career had been based on improving race relations, not exacerbating them. I am hopeful that my experience will lead to greater sensitivity to issues of racial profiling in the criminal justice system. If so, then this will be a blessing for our society. It is time for all of us to move on, and to assess what we can learn from this experience."

Crowley, according to a friend, simply said thank you. "I'd be happy to come to the White House and sit down with you and Gates and have a beer."

Which man is more likely to have an open mind? It's all guessing, but my money is on Crowley. At the moment.

"When a Harvard professor talks, shut up and learn" might be practical, too. But it's not the only rule.

What we have here is the butting of two cultures, each of which demands that more respect be received than given.

There are lessons to be learned all around. To make progress, you start with equal footing. A beer and conversation: listening, not lecturing or reading rights.

Bow to no man, respect all. That would be a good starting place.

Kudos to the president. Anyone can throw a picnic of friends. It takes a graceful host to invite the Sharks and the Jets, town and gown, Democrats and Republicans, the powerful and the people, to the same table. But it's the only way to get somewhere new.

Prost, gentlemen!

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