Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thoughts on the Masters, North Charleston

     The Masters golf tournament is being held in Augusta this week.  This is my first Masters as a retiree so I looked forward to watching the coverage from start to finish, including the Par 3 tournament held on Wednesday.  This tournament includes many of the older past champions and this year paired two of the three honorary starters, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.  As I watched Nicklaus score a hole in one on the 8th hole and listened to the crowd go wild I was reminded of my childhood days gone by.  Not of the Masters; my rekindled memories was of the Greater Greensboro Open!  
     Those were the days.  The GGO was held for years the week before the Masters.  The weather was as unpredictable as the tournament results.  Schools excused students from classes to attend the tournament and most high school seniors used the tournament as a "senior skip day" to get out and enjoy the event.  The tournament attracted most of the top name golfers of the day and the pro-am day included celebrities from the entertainment and sports worlds.  The golfers did not make the money in those days that they make today so they had to play almost every week.  All except Jack Nicklaus.
     My parents were avid Arnold Palmer fans.  Arnie's Army members did not root for Jack Nicklaus.  Jack Nicklaus skipped Greensboro every year to go practice at Augusta for the Masters.  Jack Nicklaus was the villain in my house even after Arnie moved on from the tour.  No sentimental feelings when Nicklaus won the Masters at the age of 46 in 1986.  Nope.  None.  This guy was Arnie's rival and he doesn't play Greensboro!  There were a lot of citizens of Greensboro that felt the exact same way and still do today.
     So now I am watching Jack Nicklaus at 75 years of age hitting a hole in one in a par 3 tournament 29 years after he won his last Masters.  I actually teared up.  Maybe it was remembering those Sunday afternoons watching golf with my folks all those years ago.  I'm sure the recent TV specials about Arnold Palmer, documenting his special friendship with Mr. Nicklaus' has "softened" me.  Or maybe it's the historic perspective, humility and ambassadorship I never noticed in Jack before that I do today.  Whatever the reason, my emotions were stirred and my memory banks uploaded recollections of my youthful self that sent me to a place of smiles and simpler times.  After a few seconds of misty eyes and a fluttering heart, I snapped back into reality and grumbled "to heck with you Jack, you never played Greensboro".

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     A couple days ago I was asked by a former colleague about expressing my thoughts on the officer involved shooting in North Charleston, SC.  When I was an SRO at Grimsley High School I often had to explain to students what "self defense" was.  The student view of "he hit me first so I get to hit him back" certainly doesn't qualify.  I explained to the students that self defense is needed when you perceive a threat and there is no "avenue of escape"; for instance, if you are backed into a corner, or surrounded by more than one threat or have attempted to escape but have been overtaken.  In these instances you are protected under the law as defending yourself until you can create an avenue of escape.  Once the threat is eliminated you are no longer protected; i.e. you are attacked and manage to escape or get the upper hand, you don't get to pulverize the other party in the name of self defense.  I have seen all of the published videos of this incident and am astounded that this officer was claiming self defense.  The threat, no matter what the officer perceived it might have been originally, certainly did not appear to exist as this 50 year old man was running away.  There is not much interpretation to be done when watching the actual shooting and I cannot imagine what possible explanation could change that view.  What concerns me is that this 5 year veteran officer and former Coast Guard member committed this offense and violation of his Oath of Office that is so heinous, it makes me wonder what else may be in his file.  Did this come out of nowhere?  Has he displayed conduct in the past that would indicate this incident was a possibility?  Is he a frequent "use of force" guy?  Has his fellow officers noticed behaviors or incidents when responding to calls with him that they did not report?  There is no question about what he did on this traffic stop.  There are plenty of questions about what led to this and if it could have been prevented.
     One last item; I heard one of the protesters on TV last night proclaim "if it wasn't for that video we would have Ferguson all over again".  No, we wouldn't.  The video certainly sped up the process.  Bullet holes in the back of the victim and the angle from which they entered would have eventually led to this officer's arrest.  Though an arrest and termination has already occurred it still won't prevent the opportunists from crawling out of the woodwork.

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