Posted by: JDM..... | May 27, 2016

ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS…

….and RIGHTS…

One thing, among many, that history teaches us is that once an ax gets ground three more show up to boast their dullness. Another is that we, as a species, rarely give a shit about what history reveals. This is not to say that axes should not be ground in the literal sense, but that there is a tendency to stretch metaphors way beyond their reasonable tolerance.

Take “rights,” for example. There is a 99% chance that two men standing toe to toe debating where the rights of one end and those of the other begin will be resolved when one kills the other, claiming he had the right to do that “because”…..

Metaphor abuse is part of the DNA in some places, like New York City where the police are being criticized of “profiling” homeless people and thereby violating their “rights”. According to a lawyer who is hitching her BMW payments to their wagon via the local Civil Liberties Union, “We have the right to not have the police interrupt our daily lives.

We? ” I understand the value of inclusion as a tool for building relationships, but I seriously doubt the lady lives on a steam grate. Besides, getting back to that bit about where the rights of one end and those of the other begin, certainly “we” as citizens have the “right” to the sanctity of our homes (“places of residence”….notice the stretch?), but in the generally understood meaning of the word “home”, public property like sidewalks, or property belonging to another, even if that “other” is a big ol’ rich guy or a corporation, is not on the Free Lunch Menu. I mean, I don’t have much, but it’s MINE, and you can’t live there. I might let you camp out there while resolving a tough time, but you’re going to have to mow the lawn, paint the garage, or something. You’re not just going to lay around smelling my roses and grooving on medical marijuana or whatever.

Anyway, this Civil Liberties Union lawyer has an interesting take on things, not all that unusual these days, actually, but I prefer more traditional and time tested methods of filtering to sort out the flakes of reality hidden in the rest of all that sludge. You know, kind of like panning for gold. I’m not into the new fad of grabbing the first handful of convenient crap to come down the line, calling it “gold”, and suing anyone who disagrees and especially if they refuse to pay the going price for it.

We DO have the right to be secure in our homes. Normally, a home has four walls and a roof, and the resident either owns the property or has permission from the owner to be there. Public property supposedly belongs to the “public”, which means it is held for the benefit all as a community. That doesn’t automatically mean one, albeit a bona fide member of the “public”, can “live” there. City hall is “public property”, as are the parks, schools, highways, sidewalks, and so forth. If someone opts to stake a claim on what he calculates is his “fair share” of the public domain and to guard that as his own, he is effectively interfering with the rights of everyone else, even if they neither know about nor complain about his behavior. Since most of us aren’t into roaming the streets in the middle of the night and fighting bad guys, we employ specially skilled people to do that stuff. That’s not all the police do, of course.

Profiling

Therein lies another member of the Much Hackneyed Word List. Profiling is one of those terms whose meaning is more a matter of degree rather than of substance. Profiling is just one of numerous references developed to describe the human behavior of observing one’s environment, assessing the nature of what is seen, and making decisions accordingly. Whether or not one acts upon ones conclusions is a separate matter, but even if one does, it is not necessarily a constant or a predictable quality.

In fact, “profiling” is but one part of a broad family of behaviors that all animals engage in to enhance their chances of survival. That’s why we are more likely to eat meat than rocks, and why a toddler is more likely to try out a bug or two, or even some things of unmentionable heights on the Disgusting scale, while the adults in his life won’t. Grandparents may occasionally regress…

We assess our environments and the people in them to obtain information that will help us remain safe in that environment, and for other intents. One may enter an environment for many purposes, perhaps to identify people who need help, as a nurse might do. When I worked on the local psychiatric unit, I profiled the hell out of new environments, for many reasons. Thus, when a policeman is accused of “profiling”, I’m tempted to say, “Yeah, and he ate supper, too!….What’s yer point?”

Homelessness has always been an issue, in large and small communities alike. There is a preponderance of mental health factors in play here, but having a problem does not absolve one of the need, and responsibility, to remain within the boundaries of the society’s limits and requirements. Telling a person to stop violating those limits is not violating their rights; how one tells the person may need improvement at times.

Certainly, the process can be abused, and has been, on occasion. Ergo, the issue at hand. But truth will be better served if one applies judgment rather than agenda when drawing conclusions from observation. This can be an understandable challenge for anyone in a watchdog role, just as it surely is for members of the law enforcement profession. Human nature factor #115A: we tend to see what we are looking for.

So, what about the accusations of “profiling” aimed at the NYPD for their interactions with homeless people? That is an impossible question to answer with the information provided in the news item, largely because modern “news” items are crafted to induce adrenaline surges rather than to inform, and the necessary monotonous details are missing.

Is approaching a group of less than nattily dressed and groomed men lounging about on a street corner and asking them to “move along” an instance of inappropriate bias because perhaps the encounter plays out differently than it might had it been a group of men in pinstriped suits holding leather valises? I say no. And I say further that the CLU lawyer needs a hobby, if that’s the best she can come up with. Might I suggest she explore the possibility of more productive fodder in Washington, DC?

 

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