How 15 minutes of news ruins our judgment

One of the advantages of reading the Harry Potter stories is that young readers learn to suspend judgment.  A character who is thought to be villainous – Prof. Snape – turns out to be a hero.

The dashing, blonde, adventurous professor Gilderoy Lockhard – admired by all – turns out to be a fraud.

News comes at us so rapidly from so many directions these days,  we may become practiced in making instant judgments.  We rush to demonize or to make heroic.

A month or so ago, we heard news of a police lieutenant in a suburb of Chicago who was gunned down while pursuing three suspects.  The police were still investigating – but already people rushed to make a hero out of this veteran of the police department.  In fact, he was supposed to retire that very week.

Posters went up all over the town – social media bristled with praise – his name was placed on a nation-wide list of fallen officers that is maintained in a headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Barely weeks after the news story first broke, police investigators hit us with something all the more astounding:  The officer was not shot in the line of duty.  In fact, he had set up the chase scene as a cover for killing himself!  It turns out he had been pocketing funds from a non-profit organization that he ran whose purpose was to help police recruits.  Both his wife and his son were also found to be involved in the thievery.

As fast as the posters around Fox Lake and the Facebook postings and all else had been put up – that’s how fast everything came down.  The lieutenant’s name was removed from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in Washington, D.C.

What I find curious about all of this is:  Let’s say this fraud on the public had not been discovered, say, for 50 years.  In the meantime, let’s say a monument to the fallen hero had been set up in Fox Lake, a sports field was named in his honor, a police station was named after him…

And then after all of these constructs of praise & heroism, somehow it’s found out that he didn’t fall in the line of duty – he pulled a fast one on the public, and had been doing so for YEARS, pocketing money from the non-profit that he ran.

NOW what would be the reaction of the public?  Would they want to raze the monument, re-name the sports field, re-name the police station…?

I also wonder whether some people would protest:  Leave everything as it is – you’re trying to change history.

Does anybody else see in this situation a parallel with the controversy over the Confederate flags flying from state capitols?

Once they were up, some people just couldn’t bear a change. “Leave everything as it is – you’re trying to change history.”

But the bigger issue is – fraud.  Fraud has been committed on the public.  In the case of the Confederate flags, they only started flying from state capitols as a kind of “in your face” to liberals.  Efforts to shake the solid apartheid of the South were met with defiance.  The flags of the defeated side in the Civil War were run up flagpoles in state capitals.  Excuses were made:  It’s our history, it’s our heritage.

But those explanations themselves were the fraud.  The history was injustice; the heritage was segregation.

In this case, it wasn’t a rush to judgment – it was a LACK of judgment – a lack of knowledge about what the flag stood for, what happened under that flag that led people to defend it heart & soul.

It makes me think – an act of fraud, committed by only several people, is easier to react against – easier to “clean up.”  A single memorial could be removed, signs could be taken down, a lone name could be erased from a memorial…But when the fraud is massive, covering an entire region of the country, and it is upheld by politicians and school textbooks and sizable populations, then the “correction” takes years, generations…And it is cause not for a rush to judgment but for a genuine judgment of admiration for those public figures — governors and other officials – who took the step to remove the Confederate flag from state capitals.  They KNEW what it stood for, and THEY knew that everybody else in the South KNEW what it stood for, and they decided it was time to be clear about history and truth.  Rather than continuing with a wink & a nod, they saw no future in propping up a fraud.

 

 

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