Truth Is A Verb
A recent viral video of a local arrest demonstrates what I’ve said a million times: people are going to react to whatever they think happened. I’ve been in the middle of some highly questionable police activity. Having known several police officers, I had the luxury of hearing some of the craziness that goes on behind bureaucracy and authority. This case is much more complicated than people seem to care about. Everyone loves jumping in with opinions, even though context and background are vital to understanding what’s going on. But, of course, people aren’t going to take the time to withhold judgment until they understand the subtleties at play. This is true about personal goings-on and doubly true for things happening in the world around them. Generally speaking, the public as a whole is wildly misinformed, and little can change that. During my normal days, I dart around and listen to people give opinions that reflect a huge disparity in their grasp of detail, whether it’s science, economics, or politics. It’s a reflection of strawman arguments. I listen as people with no expertise or knowledge in a particular field make sweeping statements far beyond their level of understanding.
As for the recent viral story involving the police, I took a bit of time and looked closely at the context. I was not surprised to see that people were dubiously questioning what happened. Most of them were doing so from a position of ignorance. The sound bite version had infected them with the mistaken idea that they understand what happened. Beyond that? They are not interested to know. That’s just human nature. We have more information than ever at our disposal, but our nature is one of superficial comprehension.
And so, they react to their misinterpretation, much like they did years ago when the woman burned herself badly with the cup of McDonald’s coffee. I mention that example because, to this day, people still talk from ignorance about her allegedly ridiculous lawsuit. History proved that her story was complex and that MdDonald’s had been negligent on multiple counts. But that’s not what people remember because the initial media frenzy crowded out the facts and context.
All of us were confused back in the day when the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. It took years for history to come forth with a much more telling recount of the misconduct of Bill Clinton. His pattern of sexually inappropriate conduct as a government employee turned out to be as wild as we imagined. But most of us were crowded into camps of defensiveness or accusation. The facts did little to change our initial point of view. Out of ignorance, I thought it was a case of political witchery. Of course, it turned out to be the case that Bill Clinton consistently behaved inappropriately in his positions of power. Several women were left with the consequences of dealing with the fallout.
A few years ago, most watched as the Duggar mess unfolded. Power and politics wrecked the possibility of a cut-and-dry outcome. What was uncovered in the long term unquestionably put to rest the idea that there was no fire behind the smoke.
There is police misconduct everywhere. That’s going to be the case because people find ways to misbehave regardless of their occupation. In the viral case over the last few days, people acted in good faith and in accordance with policies put in place to protect juveniles. It’s unfortunate to see the public go haywire with a misinterpretation. That’s the power of video in a nutshell. A strawman interpretation of what motivated the police to arrest someone infecting the public and few took the time to look into the ‘why’ of it all.
Time will reveal the details and subtleties. But most people won’t remember those. They’ll keep their inconsistencies in their head to mostly justify whatever conclusion or prejudice they have against the police or people in general.
As for the particular incident that prompted this post? I’m glad that we have school resource officers. Had they existed when I was in school, both of my parents would have been incarcerated multiple times, and I certainly would not have been allowed to live with them. That’s the plain truth. If the initial statements made by the person who put the chain of events in motion were not true, that’s a buttress to my argument about the power of words and accusation. Be cautious in your allegations; they can ruin people. And if they were true? It is a reflection of what goes on behind closed doors at so many homes all across the country. I’m making no hard stand regarding the ‘truth’ of the allegations precisely because we might never know in a meaningful way. Do I feel like people in authority behaved in good faith? Hell yes. And that’s weird for a liberal like me to say. There are countless examples of police misconduct everywhere. I don’t see it in this case.
I made the mistake of diving into the people involved. By way of confession, the booking photo of the person in question made me cringe. I’m as guilty as anyone for jumping to conclusions and more so in this case. I trust my instincts, though they are sometimes wrong.
I’d just like everyone to remember that we don’t really KNOW. And especially when we don’t have access to all the information. It would be nice if we lived in a society wherein laws and protection were applied equally to everyone. It’s obvious that we don’t live in that world. If people are involved, whether it’s the police or private citizens, it’s always going to be messy and full of unseen agendas, resources, and conflict. That’s part of who we are.