Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Beer diplomacy!

This one would definitely be filed away in media history as a case that was utterly blown out of proportion. Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley and his team went to Harvard Prof. Henry Gates's home on July 16th in response to a call from a passer-by, who reported that two black men were breaking into a house. Gates, 58, had returned home from an overseas trip to find the door to his home jammed, so he tried to force the front door open. When police arrived, Gates was inside and refused to give the officer any identification initially, but he later complied.

That's the story in a nutshell. Before I delve into the 'he said he said' drama (people, mental note please: it's not always 'he said she said' or 'she said she said'. thank you), here's a trivia: How do you know when an inconsequential matter has assumed unreal magnitude? When the President has to get involved, silly.

The reason it assumed drastic proportions was because Prof. Gates was furious and outraged at what he saw as an aggressive intrusion into his house. Crowley of course had a different story to tell. He said the professor refused to step outside, shouting accusations of racism and making derogatory remarks about Crowley's mother. Neither parties probably took a second to think and consider what this encounter might have looked like from the other person's aspect. So the situation escalated.

The other reason it assumed drastic proportions was because racism, an issue that has long haunted this country, was suddenly at the heart of this matter. Obama of course heard about it and decided to address it, especially since he knew Prof. Gates from his Harvard days. At a news conference, Obama said Cambridge police "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates for disorderly conduct. Crowley and his gang got super annoyed and demanded that the president apologize. And the fun began.

Obama, the otherwise super articulate Harvard scholar, had goofed up this time. So he did everything he could short of an apology. He admitted that he should have calibrated his worlds differently and that both Gates and Crowley overreacted to the situation. Nice move. He further tried to defuse the controversy by saying he talked to the police officer involved and believes him to be "a good man." Praise, even better! To conclude the matters, Mr. President, in a totally unexpected move that has the beer makers of the world smirking, has extended an invitation to both Crowley and Gates to come to the White House for a pint. Beer diplomacy? Brilliant.

Moral of the story: The best of us can goof-up. The trick lies in coming up with innovative ideas to resolve sensitive matters. I'm gonna try that the next time I regret saying something (which btw I'm sure will happen any minute from now).

Hopefully the first dog (Bo is his name) will overhear stories of the three men and their beers tomorrow and let us in on it someday.

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