The Gates-Crowley public sitcom

While Americans screamed insults at one another, Obama lost two weeks in the effort to pass healthcare reform

Topics: Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The Gates-Crowley public sitcomU.S. President Barack Obama (R) sits down for a beer with Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates (2nd L), Cambridge, Massachusetts, police Sergeant James Crowley (2nd R) and Vice President Joe Biden in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, July 30, 2009.

Only in America: Now that the dust and feathers have settled from the nation’s latest interracial pecking party, professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s daughter reveals that she thinks the wicked racist cop Sgt. James Crowley is, like, really hot. Writing in the Daily Beast, Elizabeth Gates, her distinguished father’s confidante and amanuensis during the recent unpleasantries, confides that when they met at the White House “Beer Summit,” the Cambridge cop’s 13-year-old daughter said she’d found aspects of her father’s sudden celebrity unsettling.

“I read an article where they called my father, ‘sexy cop.’ It was embarrassing,” [Crowley's] daughter said as we sat down for cookies and Coke. ‘Yeah,’ I replied. ‘He’s pretty cute.’ We laughed as Crowley’s wife rubbed her daughter’s back and reminded her son to mind the gift they had brought for the president.”

The lad gave Obama a Red Sox jersey, a suitable gift for any occasion. In other news, Ms. Gates, mind-reading like so many since this public sitcom began, scrutinized Crowley’s brood and opined, “This wasn’t a family raised on hate.” Professor Gates himself announced, “When he’s not arresting you, Sgt. Crowley is a really likable guy.”

Back in Cambridge, Gates sent flowers to 911 caller Lucia Whalen, whose attorney told Greta van Susteren on Fox News that taking the obstreperous Harvard scholar into custody struck Whalen as justifiable. After getting trashed as a bigot on national television, Whalen herself turned out to be what academicians call “a person of color.” Oops.

In short, Gates, marveling about President Obama’s brilliant plan to get himself off the political hotplate by hosting the beer party (actually, Crowley suggested it), has walked the incident back as far as possible without explaining what combination of circumstances caused him to act so oddly on July 16. That, we’re evidently never going to get.

En route to the White House, Gates somewhat grandiosely told his daughter, “There are approximately 800,000 black men in prison, and on July 16, 2009, I simply became one of them.” Now he’s back at his summer home on Martha’s Vineyard, pedaling his custom-made 24-speed tricycle to the beach. And more power to him.

Certain members of Gates’ journalistic supporters urge a false-arrest suit. A prediction: That won’t happen, either. Only fools file impulsive lawsuits; the cost is prohibitive, the discovery process unpleasant.

Did Crowley maybe improve minor facts in his much-scrutinized report? Could be. Put it this way: If you’d seen a falling-down drunk skate on a DUI because a 3 a.m. police report called a dark-blue vehicle black (I have), you might edit creatively, too.

You Might Also Like

It ain’t right, but it’s the way of the world.

One can only hope that Edward Burns (“Sidewalks of New York,” “The Brothers McMullen”) has locked up the movie rights. Not only does Crowley look like his cousin, but wry social farce is what Burns does best. Alternatively, Spike Lee could have wicked fun with yet another racial comedy of errors.

Meanwhile, and here’s the thing, the incident cost the Obama White House almost two weeks in its efforts to pass medical-insurance reform, the most significant social legislation in a generation, while Americans entertained themselves screaming insults at one another.

“It is this vast and militant ignorance,” H. L. Mencken wrote, “this wide-spread and fathomless prejudice against intelligence, that makes American journalism so pathetically feeble and vulgar, and so generally disreputable.” The Sage of Baltimore, as he was known, wrote long before the invention of 24/7 satellite news organizations and the Internet.

Here at the sprawling rural campus of Unsolicited Opinions Inc., the one-man, six-dog think tank where this column originates, we experienced a rare sorehead supernova. On the same day the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette printed a signed letter describing your humble, obedient servant here as a hater of Christians and an enemy of God for pointing out that Sarah Palin’s kind of a ditz, anonymous e-mails began to arrive from the professor’s supporters.

“Look you (bleep)ing racist moron,” one fellow suggested, “die in your (bleep)hole called Arkansas.” Someone posting at Salon.com took a similar tack. “You really this ignorant?” one fellow asked. “Or just an ignorant, right-wing, crazy, motherfrolickin’ bastard? KMA Mr. Lyons. Your Southern bias is too lacking in intelligence to bother with a response. This time you have truly revealed your Arkansas roots.”

Not much of a conversation-starter, would you say? As a New Jersey native, where scatological insult’s an art form, I’ve rarely lost a name-calling contest.

But why bother? Argument’s one thing. I thrive on it. But this imbecilic contumely, much encouraged by Internet anonymity, appears to be dividing the nation into feuding cultural tribes too busy feeling sorry for themselves and shrieking insults to comprehend the nation’s gravest problems, much less to solve them.

Oh, and another thing: Woo Pig, Sooie!

Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of "The Hunting of the President" (St. Martin's Press, 2000). You can e-mail Lyons at eugenelyons2@yahoo.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>