A great military man once asked the essential question..."how do I feel about my country and how does my country feel about me?!?" For me, those words hit home. Not because I've served in the military.....I haven't. But because I've always considered myself patriotic and over the years many of the people that I know have questioned me as to why I feel the way I do about MY country.
To be honest, there are more than a few things about MY country and Barack Obama that concern me. But I've never questioned the fact that he's a true politician. To me, he's a lot like Hillary Clinton and many other politicians; he rarely says anything "off the cuff" and he always seems to be in control. So like many people, I was surprised to hear him speak off the cuff earlier this week and so passionately about the events surrounding the arrest of Henry Louis Gates.
I'd like to say that I'm surprised that a man could be arrested after mistakenly being accused of breaking into his own house; but I've lived in this country long enough to know the lay of the land.
I remember the first time that I was stopped by the police for DWB. I was living in Montgomery Alabama, a student at Alabama State University, and I remember asking the police officer why he stopped me; and he told me, he did because he could. He offered no other explanation and he threw my driver's license and registration back at me and told me to stay out of the neighborhood that I was driving through.
The next time I was stopped, I was actually walking down the street with my then three year old son........WWB. At that time we lived in Metairie, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans; and at that time, David Duke was my state representative. If you're not familiar with that name, Google it and see what you get. It was a beautiful day so I decided to walk from my gated apartment community to a grocery store, that was about a half a mile away. I've always liked to walk and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. There were many people outside taking advantage of the beautiful weather, I could see at least 15 or 20 people in eyesight (they didn't exactly look like my son and I though). Anyway, while I was walking down the street talking to my three year old, a police car pulled up and the officer got out and asked me for my identification. I must admit, I was taken aback and I laughed at him and told him that I didn't need identification to walk down the street; I didn't honestly think he was serious initially......and then it dawned on me just why he stopped me. I mean, I was just walking down the street. It would have been comical if it wasn't so goddamned pathetic. If my son wasn't with me, I would have cursed that cop out. But instead, I simply told him that he was bordering on ridiculous and that in this country a man didn't need identification to walk down a public street. His face turned three shades of red and I simply walked away from him, as if he didn't even speak to me. He followed me down the street in his patrol car, all the way to the grocery store. I made a few purchases and when I walked out, he was still there waiting. He followed me all the way back to the gates of my apartment complex. As soon as I walked through the card access door that residents used to enter if they were on foot..........I flipped him off.
The next time that I was stopped I lived in New Jersey. I worked in Morristown and I lived in Plainfield. My commute to work was approximately 30-35 miles if I took the interstate; or I could cut through "The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge", a national park, and that shaved my commute down to approximately 13 or 14 miles. So as you can imagine, many people simply cut through the public access portion of the swamp. On one edge of the swamp is a suburban community, filled with huge houses and more than a few mansions. I was always careful to drive the speed limit while going through this area; because there were usually a slew of squad cars all around here. You'd think that there was a Dunkin Donuts or a Krispy Kreme somewhere close given the large number of cops that were always out and about. Anyway, one day I was on my way home.....doing the speed limit, when a cop pulled up behind me and put his lights on me to pull over. I stopped and rolled down my window and asked him why he stopped me when he walked up to the car. He just smiled and said, "nice day huh.........I need your license and registration". So I asked him again and he gave me some bullshit about serving and protecting the community and he told me if I didn't show him my identification that he would arrest me. After I showed him my license, registration and proof of insurance I asked him again why he stopped me and he gave me my documents back and asked me why I was riding through this particular neighborhood. I laughed and told him it was a free country and a public street and that I could drive where I pleased, particularly since my tax dollars paid for the street and his salary as well. He told me that I was out of place in this particular neighborhood and that I should be careful not to drive through it again, if I knew what was good for me.
Since when is it a crime for a citizen of this country to drive or walk down a public street that my tax dollars pay for?!?
I can't say that I know all of the particulars of the Henry Louis Gates police encounter; but regardless, I understand his feelings and just why Barack Obama felt compelled to comment on it. The only thing that I regret is that our president felt equally compelled to apologize for expressing his disgust and frustration over this sorry episode.