Dear everyone: Being an asshole is not a crime

God, I thought I had said all I had to say about this, but the unending dipshittery of the American public in general and my fellow Bostonians in particular forces me to post on the arrest of Professor Gates once again.

Allow me to enumerate some of the asshattery:

  • Last night, the president gave a long national address about healthcare. Today’s main headline on the Boston Globe? “Obama scolds Cambridge police.”
  • The cop, Sgt. Crowley, went on a local conservative talk radio show to give his version of events (Summary: Gates just would not shut up!), and said he thinks it’s “regrettable” that the president or anyone else would comment on the story without knowing all the facts. A Globe blogger basically calls Crowley a hero for not voicing full-throated agreement with the hosts’ bilious criticism of Obama, instead just demurely refusing to disagree. (So much more, after the jump.)
  • Crowley’s union announced that Obama would “regret” saying that the Cambridge cops acted stupidly.
  • Republicans are implying that having an opinion on national news is “unbecoming” a president.
  • Katharine Seelye started off her New York Times column today by saying, “Americans got a rare glimpse Wednesday night of what it means to have a black president in the Oval Office.” Which means… what, exactly? That, y’know, those black folk’ll stick together, so you can’t trust Obama on this one? That his blackity blackman anger got the best of him, so he stepped into an issue that presidents should stay out of? That, like Sotomayor, his judgment is clouded by the fact that he is not of the class universally recognized to be fair and impartial, i.e. white dudes?
  • The White House backed off Obama’s statement at the presser a bit, insisting that he’s not calling the officer “stupid.” It’s kind of surprising they feel the need to go about this little bit of what looks to be revision when Obama DID NOT ACTUALLY CALL THE OFFICER “STUPID.” What he said was, “[T]he Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.” He did not accuse them of being stupid, he did not accuse them of racism, he accused them of doing something stupid by arresting a man they knew to be innocent of any crime, according to Webster’s, is the VERY DEFINITION of FUCKING STUPID.
  • There are thousands of comments all over the Boston Globe‘s website, which I refuse to link to, lamenting that “the race card” is apparently also a Get Out of Jail Free Card (by the transitive property of containing the word “card”) and screaming about how he yelled at the cop and deserved to get arrested.

OK, listen up people, because if I have to repeat myself, someone’s getting dog doo in the mail: Setting aside the race issue entirely, the cop was in the wrong. He committed an abuse of power. Because even if Gates was the kind of insufferable, provoking, world-class asshole that rich, white Wall Street dudes can only dream of being, IT IS NOT ILLEGAL TO BE AN ASSHOLE. IT IS NOT ILLEGAL TO BE AN ASSHOLE TO A COP. IT IS NOT ILLEGAL TO SHOUT AND RAVE AND SWEAR IN YOUR OWN HOME.

Everyone—cops, Gates, and neighbors—agrees that Gates did not assault the cop, did not threaten the cop, and was inside his home for almost the entirety of the encounter. And to the extent that he was causing a disturbance—which, I should note, he says he could not have been loud enough to do because he had a bronchial infection—it was clearly a direct reaction to having cops in his house, and would end as soon as the cops left, which means the proper reaction was not to arrest Gates but to get off his fucking porch. So, yes, it is entirely possible that he is guilty of being kind of shitty human being, but he did NOTHING ILLEGAL.

This incident should scare the crap out of everyone, regardless of color, because it highlights the fact that if you’re having a bad day and happen to cross paths with a cop, you could find yourself cuffed in the back of a squad car for Class A Misdemeanor: Insufficient Deference. In addition to the questions about racial profiling this incident raises, we should be asking tough questions about how much power cops have and how they use it. We should be investigating how many cops have anger-management problems. We should look at how many and what kind of people get ticketed or arrested for shooting their mouths off, and conversely, how many  and what kind of people who should be ticketed or arrested get let off with a warning because they said all their “Yes, sirs” and “I’m very sorry, sirs.”

And all these jackasses who are whining about “playing the race card” and how the justice system works differently for Harvard should be the first to call for these kind of investigations. Because those people are assholes. And if a cop can walk into your house, accuse you of a crime you know you did not commit, demand you prove your innocence on the spot, and then arrest you for committing Felonious Assholery in response… Well, if you don’t happen to be friends with Charles Ogletree, how do you think things would go for you?

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5 Responses

  1. YES.

    Maybe Gates was being an arrogant jackass; I gather even in his own version of the story he did say “do you know who you’re dealing with?” or words to that effect. So fucking what? It doesn’t matter in the least how he was acting in his own home while not being guilty of any crime.

  2. amen. and now it’s turned into a total pissing contest – cambridge police issue statement, someone on gates’ side issues statement, some other police force issues statement, someone else on gates’ side issues statement – JUST STOP ALREADY. jeez louise. If this was bill gates instead of professor gates, we would probably hear about how he was an asshole (like we do when some Hollywood whatever is one) and that would be the end of it – no arrest, no pissing contest, nothing. and therein lies the rub and the difference. i will maintain, however, that al sharpton does not make matters any better, ever.

  3. What? Contempt of cop as a crime has always been around, welcome to the fold. They do whatever they WANT and they will TELL you so, in no uncertain terms. Even the cops who are mostly decent have their days when they violate peoples rights, it’s an ongoing disaster because they can and do GET AWAY WITH IT. The whole system stinks and feeds on itself, the bad cops act with compliance from x amount of the public, prosecutors, DAs, judges etc. It is ‘the criminal system’ of justice. So it goes.

  4. Cops are basically security guards for the rich and/or powerful, who occasionally sidetrack into other areas. They bully, lie [google testilying], cheat, and violate rights way way more than the average citizen is aware of, and sure, there are actually decent cops BUT [see previous comment] they know about and tolerate most or all of the malfeasance of other officers, how often have you heard of a cop turning in another cop? They bamboozle the public with their slick lies and the public falls for it, …..hate cops? Nope, I hate bad cops and the ones who tolerate them – HMMMMM!

  5. To sum up, being an asshole most certainly is a crime. Cops are special [in their minds] that’s partly why so many people get arrested for ‘contempt of cop’ on a daily basis. Police trample the publics’ rights, many of whom [the public] are weak cowards who ‘condone by proxy’ when they let police abuse them, others, who are either fed up or have a better defined sense of justice along with the will to act on it get locked up for it. To quote Kurt Vonnegut “so it goes”

    -Joe Blow from Idaho

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