By Ellen Endo
“Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.”
—Dave Barry (1947- ), American author and columnist
The White House staff is taking drink orders. Get ready for beerplomacy. President Barack Obama’s usual cool demeanor has been put to the test lately as he tussles with Congress and public opinion over health care reform, his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court appointee, and his use of the “s” word.
It’s safe to say that the honeymoon is over.
The “s” word is “stupidly.” During a recent news conference, the President was asked to comment on the Cambridge, Mass. arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates by local police sergeant James Crowley.
The President prefaced his comment by noting that Gates is a friend of his then said he believed the police “acted stupidly” in arresting a man after learning that was in his own home and, in fact, not a burglar. The charges were soon dropped but the hubbub took on a life of its own.
The flack that followed soon escalated to a cause celebre, prompting Obama to apologize to the police and then extend an invitation to Gates and Crowley to get together with him July 30 at the White House for some bonding and a brew.
Aside from rattlig Rush Limbaugh’s cage and providing ultra-conservatives with fresh meat, the commentary spawned a new debate over police procedure and racial profiling.
Problem is, in my opinion, everyone is focused on the wrong issue.
Now that we have had a chance to step back and put the race card back in the deck, we can look closer at the real issue: uncontrolled anger.
Both men apparently let their tempers get the better of them. Gates, who is African American, became indignant at being suspected of robbing his own home. Crowley, who is Caucasian, resented Gates’ attitude and decided to press things a little further.
Like the President, I wasn’t there, but I can recognize the Nisei Factor when I see it.
What is the “Nisei Factor” you ask? That’s when there are two 80-yearold Nisei in a room and they’re both right.
In an interview with CNN’s Larry King, Colin Powell, who seems to surface as capriciously as Loch Ness, chided Gates for his impulsive response. Powell admitted to experiencing racial profiling at times in his life but made the point that anger is never a good solution.
So, instead of arguing about whether racial profiling is alive and thriving in New England, we should be arguing—or, rather, not arguing—about staying calm in stressful situations.
To Prof. Gates I say, “When a law enforcement official shows up in order to save your house from being robbed, try not to yell at him.”
To Sgt. Crowley I urge, “After you are sure that a guy is in his own house, stop treating him like a criminal.”
As a mother, my solution is to put them both in a “time out.” It seems inappropriate to reward Gates and Crowley’s mutual bad behavior with a Bud and bar nuts.
Unless we are willing to appoint Joe Six-Pack as an Ambassador to Boston and put Anheuser-Busch in charge of the State Department, we need to see this matter as the prison guard and, later, Paul Newman did in “Cool Hand Luke.” (“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”)
If the beer-plomacy succeeds in soothing ruffled sensibilities, I suggest we apply this remedial technique to other conflicts. How about one-on-one basketball with Kim Jong Il?
Perhaps the White House invitation ought to be extended to Dr. Phil, who could serve up a little anger management. Better yet, let’s avoid anger altogether. Racism is a serious accusation and shouldn’t be waved around like a foam finger at a football game.
Frankly, there is too much at stake.
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of The Rafu Shimpo or its management. Comments and/ or inquiries should be directed to [email protected]