Sgt. James Crowley and Henry Louis Gates Jr. have become the source of ceaseless public discussion in the last few days. Both men were in a stressful situation. Both men got angry. Both men probably misjudged the other. Both felt so certain of the prejudices of the other that they became too offended to admit any misjudgment on their own part. Either could have ended the situation by simply calming down. Instead it escalated and now their argument is at the center of a media circus.
While race is still an issue in America, I think the real issue that needs to be discussed now is self-control. Two adults, who both should have known better, let their hurt feelings take over and lost control of themselves. The officer had all the real power in the incident. He had the authority and the weapon and he was up against an irritable small man who walked with a cane. He represented the people of the state, and he should have been more professional. Once he realized the error and that Gates wanted him out of the house he should have bit his tongue, apologized, and left. Since the incident Gates has had the power, since he is a famous man who knows the president and has the ear of the media. He is supposed to represent thoughtful academia. Since the incident he has used his influence to insult officer Crowley's character and motives. Crowley has responded in kind. Both men still refuse to back down. The issue at stake now is pride and ego. Both are willing to damage the reputation of whites and blacks, academics and police in order to win this battle of wills without apologizing.
I am trying to teach my toddler self-control. As a one-year old he responds to not getting his way by screaming and throwing things. It is childish behavior because he is a child. I hope to raise him to become young man with self-discipline so that even when he is misjudged or insulted he will not loose control and let himself mistreat others. This is what we should expect of any mature adult.
Race and misuse of power in America are being debated non-stop in this case. While these are issues worth discussion, the more important issue is that our nation is full of adults who are unwilling or unable to practice self-control. A police officer and an honored professor should both be acting like men not boys.