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Neighbor to Neighbor: Childhood experience provided good lesson

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Mistakes are not casual things to me. My upbringing taught me that. I can remember our family going to a restaurant when I was about 5 years old. It was to be a very special treat because during the Great Depression, we seldom did extravagant things. As we began to eat, I reached across the big dinner plate to pick up the glass of milk that had been set before me. Almost as soon as I had it in my grasp, it tipped over, clanking hard onto the table. Its contents slithered in every direction, soaking the tablecloth.

I held my breath. I looked across the table at Daddy. I could tell he was struggling to control both his anger and embarrassment. Tears filled my eyes, as they always did when I felt I had committed some gross error. Much to my surprise, as the waitress rushed over to mop up and give things a fresh start, daddy leaned toward me and said, "I'm sorry, I thought you were big enough to have the kind of manners needed to eat in a restaurant. I was wrong."

I was devastated! Mother came to my defense by saying, "Daddy, dear, it was an accident." That having been acknowledged to be true did not get us to another restaurant outing for a long time thereafter.

By contrast, only a few years ago, while working on what I thought was an important community project, I pointed out to some of my neighborhood associates that they had made a mistake that would have caused complete project failure. Neither seemed upset, and in fact one of them said casually, "That's why erasers were invented!" A statement of fact!

Everyone, at some time or another (myself certainly included), makes mistakes. In some professions, the time element plays a prominent role. That is true in the newspaper business. Deadlines must be met. Errors sometimes occur. Even if corrections are published later, the reading public is not always the same, or the person who read the error may not see the correction.

My Feb. 3, column, "Don't rush to judge in the Amadou Diallo case," contained two errors, noted subsequently, in the paper's Corrections column.

I do feel strongly about what I was saying, however, and believe additional clarification herein is necessary.

The Rev. Al Sharpton had ridiculed Mayor Giuliani's actions regarding the so-called art display at the Brooklyn Museum, saying that, if the mayor had ever read the Bible, he would have known there was dung on the floor in the manger.

What should have been printed in response was, "Personally, I suspect the mayor DID read the Bible even beyond the point where the most famous man that ever lived did not get a fair trial!"

The second correction referred to the penultimate paragraph in that column, in which I mentioned that the Rev. Jesse Jackson had spoken to the congregation in the Episcopal Cathedral in Garden City after Colin Ferguson shot up the Long Island Rail Road train, most deliberately killing and wounding - not one - but many whites and Asians and he said, "You must forgive him," and some, including Mrs. McCarthy, did.

I apologize to you for this long explanation, but besides everyone making mistakes, I feel when they have been made everyone should also apologize. Certainly, Police Officers Kenneth Boss, Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon, Richard Murphy, Mayor Giuliani and Commissioner Safir tried to do that. The demonstrators against the officers, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, chose to reject their apologizes and condemn them before their trials.

Those who have never had a member of the NYPD in his or her family, or had the privilege of working as close to as many of the wonderful police officers as I have known as a 32-year volunteer, may not want to think of them as well-trained men and women, caring human beings, most with families to worry about, with a (mostly unappreciative) public to protect, while trying also to help keep their partners and themselves alive and not wounded as well.

Those people who want to label them as (minimally) brutal and racist, (especially if they are white) are the ones who accept neither apology nor explanation and permit or encourage such slogans as "Kill the cops." The fact that Amadou Diallo resembled the dangerous criminal who had raped upward of 26 women, mostly black and some Hispanic, appears not to have been taken into consideration either.

Everyone should grieve over the loss of innocent life. That has been, and is being done because of the Amadou Diallo tragedy. When is it mentioned at meetings, in the presence of those who all too willingly speak out against police, that the demonstrators do not do so when police officers are brutally killed by criminals, the answer from people like the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Charles Norris is, "That's what they get paid for." Maybe that is what they want them paid for. I don't! Incidentally, should those four officers be acquitted, all the ministers and their followers who made their very public pre-trial condemnations (and all the rest of us too), better pray they can convince their supporters that even THEY made a serious mistake!

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