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Goodwill and Civility Drown at the McKinney Pool Party

Off we go with another racially-charged police confrontation, this time at a “pool party” in McKinney, Texas. We are meant to imagine an innocent, if perhaps a bit high-spirited, gathering of cheerful teens interrupted by a brutal racist cop, who couldn’t wait to find the nearest young lady of color and body-slam her for fun. The reality seems a bit more… nuanced.

But of course, the last thing anyone looking to exploit this incident will do is sit back and wait for all of the facts to emerge. Clip out anything unhelpful to the Narrative from that YouTube video and get it online, stat!

It’s possible for the “pool party” to have been a far more provocative, or indeed illegal, incident than national media consumers have been led to believe, and for the police officer involved to have conducted himself badly. The goal of the Narrative-shapers is to strike quickly, building a simple black-and-white (if you’ll pardon the expression) story that must be chiseled away by subsequent revelations. Truth is therefore put on the defensive, while Narrative runs out the clock.

There are people involved in the McKinney incident who are proudly declaring their solidarity with the 100 percent false “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” meme from Ferguson – a lie that was made so huge, so quickly, that no amount of truth can dissolve it. Early impressions take hard work to correct, and the people on the wrong side of a Narrative rarely have the numbers or media energy to get the job done, especially when many of the people they need to convince have absolutely zero interest in hearing what they have to say.  What chance do a few cops, their colleagues, and the neighborhood residents who called them have against viral memes spreading through social media and racking up hundreds of thousands of Likes and Retweets?

The video and testimony McKinney Narrative-crafters don’t want you to see make it clear that goodwill and civility were in short supply at poolside. Before we talk about that, let us be clear that it remains possible the police officer involved will be found to have acted improperly or abused his authority. The point of this discussion is not to assert the police are infallible, or that everything they do is automatically justified.

Having said that… isn’t it odd that the people who want to wait for all the facts to come in, before rendering judgment, are the ones expected to offer disclaimers? Snap judgment and insta-rage come without hesitation, reservation, or remorse. Those who keep open minds and want to get things right are treated as enemies of “social justice” who need to get with the program. Impatience becomes a virtue – a demonstration of sincerity and concern about the Real Issues, which must occasionally be nourished with half-truths and outright falsehoods to blossom into Social Justice.

What’s really disturbing is that it’s not just media-savvy professional agitators who understand the importance of striking swiftly and getting public verdicts on the record, before anything resembling a trial can begin. Young people, having watched all the previous “social justice” incidents carefully, have learned how to play the game very well. Raise a ruckus, confront the cops as an angry mob, disobey their orders until an overwhelmed officer does something that can be used to generate outrage, film it with a smartphone, upload to YouTube while the police are still filling out their paperwork. Why not do that every single time? It seems to be working, from the standpoint of delivering satisfaction and vindication to kids who have been told polite society has nothing to offer them, and the police are their enemy.

What’s missing from these incidents is the goodwill and civility necessary for society to function at all. Would our grandparents have believed that in the span of a single generation – in a process that seems to have accelerated to crisis speed in just a few years – we’d reach the point where verbally abusing, disobeying, and even menacing police officers would be considered acceptable behavior? That is the assertion being made here. Excusable means acceptable, especially when we’re told the police officers involved have no valid excuse for their own actions. In the McKinney story, and many others preceding it, we are expected to brush aside everything that happened before the YouTube clip begins as meaningless prologue. In everything from traffic stops to police responding to reports of a sizable disturbance, the citizens involved are held to no standard of good manners or cooperative conduct whatsoever.

Society can’t work that way. The absence of goodwill and civility are the defiance of order. Every single encounter with law enforcement cannot fast-forward immediately to the point where the cop is essentially dared to use force to assert authority. He, or she, should be able to assert authority merely by appearing on the scene and speaking. Restoring calm to a tense situation should be the first priority for citizens and police. Everything else can be resolved later – especially since, as has now been demonstrated many times, video recordings of the incident will be made, probably more than one of them.

Goodwill flourishes only when society sets a high standard for it. Such a standard clearly has not been set when a large group of young people responds to the arrival of a police officer by running wild, disobeying instructions, screaming in his face, and daring him to do something about it. Young people are very sensitive to the examples set by adults, both explicitly and implicitly.

If we’re not ready to set those standards and stand by them – all of us adults, of every skin color, in every town – we’re going to have anarchy. Anarchy is aggressive. It senses weakness and pushes forward, as people conclude a society with few standards is ripe for toppling, and probably deserves it. We absolutely must hold armed law enforcement officers to very high standards of conduct, with considerable resources invested in training them and investigating their actions.

But we must also hold citizens – of every age, color, and economic status – to high standards. It matters how these altercations begin, and no matter how they end, the people who escalated the encounter into something worse than a conversation must be held responsible for their behavior. If not, everyone had better prepare for an era in which police officers have to be crazy to do their jobs, especially when summoned to enforce civic standards in situations where they’re highly likely to be overwhelmed, either physically or on the Internet.

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