The American dichotomy, up close and personal

The American dichotomy, up close and personal

My dear brothers, sisters, readers of Reason Rest Stop and only friends, this has been another of those weeks where I have stopped myself more than once from writing my commentary in an effort to allow a story to fully evolve.  The fact of the matter is that this is a very trying time to abide along this, the most conservative stretch of Old Route 66.  To say that these have been some dark days for Tulsa and all of Oklahoma and for anyone with ties to this state may be an understatement.  At the same time there are reasons to take pride in our community as some of the same sort of awfulness at center stage has occurred elsewhere with a totally different community response.

When I saw the story flash across social media about the Tulsa Police shooting of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed African American man whose vehicle had stalled, in North Tulsa last Friday evening I braced myself for the absolute worst.  I took a deep breath and waited patiently with everyone else for the facts of the case to come trickling out.  With all that pending, I vowed to enjoy myself on Saturday as a friend and I traveled to Norman to take in the spectacle of the third ever meeting between two college football heavyweight contenders, Ohio State and Oklahoma.  After kickoff was postponed some ninety minutes due to a severe thunderstorm with lightening, even the pre-game pageantry seemed strained.  Even still I respectfully stood for the entire show.

OU pre-game vs. Ohio State

The Ohio State Buckeyes then wasted no time in letting our beloved Sooners and their head coach Bob Stoops (who happens to be the highest paid state employee in Oklahoma) know they were not Top 10 or even Top 20 material.  The Buckeyes certainly made short work of OU.  Ohio State dominated on their way to a 45 to 24 rout in a game that, once again, was not really as close as the final score indicates.  It indeed was yet another terrible sight for a sober Sooner fan and not much better for the tipsy ones, so I was told.  It was a long and miserable drive back to Tulsa in the middle of the night.  Along the way I found myself wishing sometimes out loud that the woes of the Sooner Football was the only problem we here in Oklahoma had to face and deal with.  Sadly, in this election year, we have issues that really do matter a lot more than football, any team’s football and certainly more pressing than making a big deal over who stands, kneels or sits for whatever song.

Terence Crutcher shooting by TPD

All week many here in Tulsa have been sitting on pins and needles waiting to see what course the local District Attorney was going to take in the Crutcher shooting case.  It was announced this afternoon that the police officer who fired the fatal shot, Officer Betty Shelby, was going to be charged with First Degree Manslaughter.  The relief expressed by those on the side of the deceased was palpable.  I was able to attend a function  in front of City Hall this evening.  Instead of a protest, it became a rally for We The People Oklahoma, a local community activist group, expressing their First Amendment rights and support for the Crutcher family and for Mr. Crutcher’s community.

Tulsa City Hall WhichSideAreYouOn

As a native Tulsan, it filled me with a deep sense of civic pride to see members of a historically marginalized segment of this community opt for peaceful means to seek redress.  For all the tension that has surrounded this shooting and its fallout, Tulsa has remained remarkably peaceful.  Contrasting this with the riots that have occurred in the wake of the shooting of an allegedly unarmed black man in the town of Charlotte, NC, I do feel hopeful for the future of non-violent conflict resolution, at least in Tulsa.

Hands Up, Don't Shoot

 All this week I have been pondering the seemingly righteous indignation of all my extended family and old school and old Navy friends who have been going nuts on social media over an NFL backup quarterback who refused to stand for the National Anthem because felt he was not compelled to respect a nation that too often does not adhere to the true meaning of its creed of justice and equality.  Yes, San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick decided to stand for something, or rather in his case kneel for something and in doing so became the most disliked player in the league.  I don’t know if it is just me being too jaded by such things that I stopped paying attention but ever since this past weekend I have seen less of the outrage over one player making a token statement.  I reckon there is nothing like an in-your-face example or a few of why a young man and role model would go to all the trouble to make himself a spectacle.

One observation I have noted in my post-military career and personal life is that a significant number of the affluent and usually white population is largely insulated from and mostly unaware of the hardships and injustices commonly confronted by the minority communities which surround them.  Many claim to be devoutly religious but they rarely interface with those outside their social class and when they do they tend to see what they expect to see as a person of privilege.  They tend to be the type of persons who are greatly offended by things like middle fingers, F-bombs and crude vernacular terms for the human genitalia.  They are often indifferent at best about serious injustices like insurance companies denying claims because the insured becomes chronically ill, reserve and National Guard personnel getting deployed multiple times then coming home to no job and marginal benefits and the disparity in the criminal justice system regarding who gets prosecuted and disproportionately convicted and sentenced for non-violent offenses.  That is our American dichotomy.  Our class is defined by what offends us.  If you are not outraged by what has gone on for so long in terms of how minorities have been policed or over policed then you are likely a member of the privileged class.  I wonder how many will be offended by the criminal indictment of the officer who wrongfully shot Terence Crutcher?  I’m sure time will tell.  If anyone has any hope of healing the wounds of the community at large then this is positive step in that direction.  As of this moment though I don’t think I have ever been this proud of the citizens of my hometown.  My hat is off to We The People Oklahoma and all those involved in the organization.  They all know who they are.

 We all bleed red