Police, social media

What would Jesus do?

I wrote a post yesterday that I decided to password protect several hours later. I didn’t share it on Facebook, as I usually do. I figured if I shared it, I might be inviting Internet infamy, and frankly my mental state right now can’t handle that. So, several hours after I wrote yesterday’s post, I decided to put it behind a password. I figured that if anyone wanted to read it, they would message me.

One person did want to read the post. I shared it with her. We disagreed, although we did so in a civil way. I appreciated that very much, since a couple of nights ago, I got attacked by two different people on Facebook for defending Amy Cooper. Now… when I say I “defended” her, I don’t mean I condoned what she did on Monday morning. I certainly don’t think her actions were right, but I don’t know much about her. All I know about her is what I’ve read in the papers and seen on video. I don’t like what I’ve read or seen, but I don’t know Amy Cooper personally. I think she’s guilty of acting like a racist. However, I don’t know enough about her to know if she is, in fact, a racist. She might very well be a racist. Or, she might have just lost all sense of decorum in a very stressful situation.

By stressful, I don’t just mean being confronted by a black man in a park. I mean stressful to include dealing with the global pandemic in a city that has been hit very hard by the coronavirus. Most of the world is under tremendous stress right now, and I wonder if that had anything to do with the way Ms. Cooper reacted on Monday.

A lot of people have concluded that by calling the police on birdwatcher Christian Cooper, the black man who confronted her in Central Park on Memorial Day morning, Amy Cooper is a horrible person to the core. She’s lost her job, her dog, and probably a lot of friends. Many people have said they think she should be arrested and spend time in prison, even though there is no law against calling the police. Granted, many people felt Amy Cooper was simply calling the cops because she’s a racist; but not having been there at the time, I can’t conclude that she didn’t feel scared or threatened. I honestly don’t know what she was feeling at the time. I can only make a presumption based on the video and news articles that have been shared and commented on repeatedly.

I have noticed that coming to a conclusion other than what the masses believe can be dangerous. Based on the hatred that was spewing Tuesday night and yesterday, it occurred to me that some self-righteous people wouldn’t mind if she just killed herself. That seems wrong to me, since Amy Cooper is a human being and I think most human beings are deserving of basic compassion and understanding, even when they don’t show it themselves. (and I will also admit that I can be hypocritical on this point, particularly when someone is hateful to me– but I am working on it)

I found the flow of vitriol toward Amy Cooper very depressing. It was bad enough that I considered getting off of Facebook. Between the constant back and forth preaching about social distancing and face mask wearing, the endless pictures of hateful white supremacists who have been toting their guns to state capitals and demanding their “rights”, and the shrill outrage expressed by thousands of people who don’t actually know anything about Amy Cooper or Christian Cooper or any of the other stories they were commenting on, it got to be too much… I was starting to feel horrible about myself, and I had nothing to do with any of these incidents.

Then I saw posts about George Floyd, the 46 year old black man who was arrested in Minneapolis and died handcuffed and begging for his life as a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, pinning him to the ground. I’ll admit, I haven’t read the details about that case yet, but I did see the horrifying pictures. I do think the officers who are responsible for killing Mr. Floyd should be prosecuted. There are far too many black men being killed by people who are supposed to be protecting and serving everyone. Ditto to the three men in Brunswick, Georgia– Gregory McMichael, 64, Travis McMichael, 34, and William Bryan, 50,– who are responsible for killing Ahmaud Arbery in February. Those men absolutely should stand trial for taking the law into their own hands and killing a black man who was simply out for a run.

I think it’s a problem that someone like Amy Cooper gets mobbed and automatically labeled a racist for calling the police. I think people should be able to call the police whenever they think they need help. No one should be able to “weaponize” the police. The police should be there to help resolve conflicts, protect and serve all people, and enforce laws. The fact that people think a middle aged white woman can call the police, resulting in a black man being killed by them, is a serious problem and something that our society must address. I think the fact that so many black men in America are being killed by cops is a much bigger issue than a white woman calling 911 when she didn’t really have to.

Unfortunately, somehow some police officers in the United States seem to have lost their way, and now they’ve become people that we collectively can’t trust. When a middle aged white woman like Alison Ettel, Jennifer Schulte, or Amy Cooper calls the police on someone of color, they become targets of rage and symbols of racism. People then feel free to cheer when their lives fall apart on a very public forum. The public becomes as bad as the offender. Seriously… I don’t think people who are outraged against Amy Cooper, wishing death or poverty or any other misfortune on her are a whole lot better than the racist they claim she is. Hate is hate. God forbid you present a different viewpoint, either. If you do, be prepared to be attacked and maligned, as I was a couple of nights ago.

And that brings me to the title of today’s post. I have never claimed to be a very religious person. I’m especially not a fan of organized religion because I’ve seen it hurt a lot of people. However, I am a fan of Jesus Christ… or at least the idea of being “Christ like”. I have been fortunate enough to run into a couple of people in my life who radiated serenity. A few years ago, I even wrote about a man I didn’t talk to, but simply noticed in a restaurant. I was in a bad mood at the time… hungry, tired, and irritable, and I noticed this man sitting at a table with several other people. He seemed to be so calm, loving, and gentle… perhaps a mere essence of who I think Christ would be if I were to meet him. The people who were with the man in the restaurant seemed enchanted by his humble demeanor and easy kindness.

My German friend, Susanne, found out who the man was. It turned out he was a Japanese Buddhist monk named Toyoshige Sekiguchi who had been traveling around the world to promote peace and nuclear disarmament. I never spoke to him, but simply seeing him in a crowded restaurant while I was “hangry” had the effect of calming me down and imparting peace. It occurred to me that someone like Toyoshige Sekiguchi would not hate Amy Cooper. He would most likely wish peace for her… something to soothe whatever it was inside of her that made her say what she said to Christian Cooper on Monday morning and take actions that led to her life being destroyed in a matter of hours.

I am a very long way from being like Toyoshige Sekiguchi. I am an even longer way from being like Jesus Christ. I have my moments of hatred, outrage, and judgment, just like everyone else does, although mine most often seem to come out against people who injure me or Bill personally. Still, I would like to be a kinder, more understanding person. Hating Amy Cooper is not a step in the right direction to meet that goal, even if I condemn her actions.

A wise professor once told me, having been the wife of an abusive alcoholic– you have to separate the person from the action. Most people occasionally say and do bad things, but that doesn’t necessarily make them inherently bad people. And… just for the record, I can name several people off the top of my head whom I think are much worse people than Amy Cooper is, and none of them have ever been outed, let alone fired or arrested. But what they did was never recorded on a camera phone and leaked to the press. Most of us could easily find ourselves making a very public mistake that gets put on blast. I doubt very much that any of us would want to have our lives upended and wrecked for having a couple of bad minutes of our lives recorded for posterity and shared with and judged by the masses.

For his part, Christian Cooper has publicly stated that he doesn’t think it’s right for Amy Cooper’s life to be upended. He said:

“Any of us can make — not necessarily a racist mistake, but a mistake… And to get that kind of tidal wave in such a compressed period of time, it’s got to hurt. It’s got to hurt.”

“I’m not excusing the racism,” he said. “But I don’t know if her life needed to be torn apart.”

He opened his mouth to speak further and then stopped himself. He had been about to say the phrase, “that poor woman,” he later acknowledged, but he could not bring himself to complete the thought.

“She went racial. There are certain dark societal impulses that she, as a white woman facing in a conflict with a black man, that she thought she could marshal to her advantage,” he said.

“I don’t know if it was a conscious thing or not,” he added. “But she did it, and she went there.”

Christian Cooper says he doesn’t want to reconcile with Amy Cooper face to face, but he has expressed regret that she’s received death threats and that her life is being “destroyed”. He has acknowledged that by making her go viral, he played a part in (hopefully temporarily) destroying her life… even though many people feel that by calling the police, she could have ended his life. He even almost called her a “poor woman” as he spoke to the New York Times about the aftermath of making her go viral. I commend him for having compassion for Amy Cooper. The world would be a better place if more people did. I hope someday that Amy Cooper recovers from this incident and even gets her dog back, as long as she’s willing to keep him on a leash.

What I think is especially sad, though, is that we don’t have more faith in the New York City Police Department being able to do their jobs without killing someone. And that our lack of faith in New York City’s police is due to the all too frequent stories about black men being killed by cops in places like Minneapolis, Minnesota. That, to me, is a much bigger issue than Amy Cooper deciding to call the cops.

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