Josh Effron has spoken at our club events several times over the last decade. He is always highly rated as a top educator and over the last several weeks I have been sharing my thoughts with him. I will share a few of the recent interactions.
Josh has a balanced, peaceful and responsible approach to the hot topic of “Black Lives Matter”. His family has endured extreme racism with the ‘elimination’ of his grandparents because of their race. He watches the movement closely.
Query from Mike:
Josh, I continue to be saddened about the removal of statues and other news of the day, but I have lately been posting more than usual, because I am very concerned, not with the sheer number of news stories (that has always been the case) but with people drawing the wrong lessons from these news stories and taking down a great society along the way.
In the case of the statues, I am concerned with the erasing of history, particularly when people are toppling statues of great figures, such as Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.
In the case of news stories of police brutality, I am concerned with people who are drawing the conclusion that this means that this is representative of all law enforcement, which it most definitely is not.
In the case of racist attacks, I am concerned with people who are drawing the conclusion that this is representative of a trend in society, rather than the exception to the rule that I know it to be.
The danger with people drawing the wrong conclusions is that it could result in the destruction of the just and moral society that we have created, and that scares me a lot more than individual incidents of police brutality, racism, etc.
What do you think?
Response from Josh:
With that in mind, here is my newest post, in response to https://www.jpost.com/international/hate-crime-investigation-opened-after-jewish-biracial-woman-set-on-fire-633044?fbclid=IwAR2lB22MpFGHycCf6m9WdF0v62EmN_M0t67sUa5AG_FdPzqHNdHSCD4Z9qs :
I hope that they catch those responsible for this. Whenever there is an incident like this one, or the brutal murder of my own grandparents, or any of the incidents of violence against innocents making the news today (whether that violence was motivated by racism/anti-Semitism or occurred for other reasons), I am reminded of the proverbial glass being half empty or half full. While both are correct (i.e., the glass is both half empty and half full), it is a matter of where we put our focus.
I am truly grateful to live in a time and place where we do not need to call upon other people to condemn these actions — they are already doing that on their own. We do not need to demand that those who did this be brought to justice – the relevant law enforcement agencies are already working to do just that. We do not need to demand that society change its ways as a result of this – people’s widespread condemnation of this and similar actions shows that we have already reached the point where more people condemn this than support it, and the perpetrators of this are the pariahs that they should be.
That is why the thing that keeps me sane when confronted with evil is both to work to fight that evil in my own way and to remember that those who perpetrate such actions are in the minority in the Western world of today.
Indeed, when it comes to my grandparents’ murder, I keep my sanity by focusing on the many good people who sign the petitions that we put out every few years to ensure that justice is done (as much as possible, given the legal and political considerations involved, but those are a subject for a whole other conversation).
When studying the history of slavery and white racism in the United States, I keep my sanity by remembering the thousands who died in the Civil War to free the slaves and the many who risked their lives and livelihoods by violating the law to get escaped slaves to safety (the Underground Railroad).
When studying the history of the Holocaust, I keep my sanity by remembering the many Gentiles who risked their lives and livelihoods to save as many Jews as they could (including my hero, Chiune Sugihara, who issued thousands of life-saving Japanese visas to European Jews, throwing out his entire career in the process, as well as the many others, such as Miep Gies, who hid European Jews and/or risked their own lives to get these Jews to safety).
With contemporary incidents of police brutality, I keep my sanity by focusing on the majority of good people (both members of the general public and members of various law enforcement agencies) who, without hesitation, condemn such aberrant actions and demand that those who engage in these crimes be brought to justice.
And with incidents like what happened to this woman, I keep my sanity by focusing on the majority of good people who have come to her support, proving that the thugs who did this to her are the exception, not the rule.
Yes, humanity can get pretty disgusting, but we will only keep our sanity by fighting that evil and by focusing on the good whose deeds, likewise, combat evil.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi once said, “A little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness.” And if that is so of just a LITTLE bit of light, then we are so fortunate that, today, there is a whole lot of light out there combating and overpowering evil.
Then Josh and I were interacting about our concerns with respect to tearing down statues. We discussed several leaders, and this is one response that Josh sent to me.
Query from Mike:
Here is something I recently posted regarding the movement to remove statues honoring Ulysses S. Grant:
I am extremely disturbed by the effort to remove statues honoring President Ulysses. S. Grant, simply because he once owned a slave. Grant’s life is one of repentance and of working to constantly better himself, a lesson that we all need to learn.
Yes, it is true that Grant did briefly own one slave – a man named William Jones, who was a “gift” from his father-in-law in late 1857 – but he freed Jones about a year later (March of 1859 ), before the Civil War even started.
Years later, as President, he worked to ensure the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 , which could have resolved the issue of black equality and prevented segregation but ended up being struck down by the Supreme Court in 1883, setting civil rights back almost a century.
Grant underwent a similar moral evolution with regard to his relationship to the Jews. During the Civil War, General Grant enforced General Orders Number 11, which was the most anti-Semitic order in American history. It gave the Jews of Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee just 24 hours to leave their homes, because it was suspected that the Jews were Southern sympathizers. (When President Lincoln found out about this order, he immediately countermanded it.)
However, Grant’s story does not end there. He felt so guilty about what he had done that he spent the remainder of his life repenting, to the point where, as President, he became one of the best friends the Jews ever had in the White House, appointing more Jews to various offices than any President before him. He also attended a synagogue service at Adas Israel Congregation, along with his entire cabinet. This was the first time that a President had attended a synagogue service. When President Grant died, Jews all over sincerely mourned him as a truly great man.
Yes, Ulysses S. Grant was not a perfect person (who is?), but he should be honored for his moral evolution, from slave owner to protector of black rights and from anti-Semite to friend of and advocate for the Jews. His story teaches us that it is never too late for most of us to morally evolve.
Finally, one area that I have spoken about extensively is judicial reform. At length I have written about my concerns how how the US judicial system is draconian in its ways. The Black Lives Movement in many respects does not have a clear message and I certainly do not agree with many of its tactics and lack of any meaningful messaging however, one area I hope it can impact is a system where a defendant charged with a crime has less than a 2% chance of winning statistically and that is why so many innocent people take a plea deal.
In this example below, Josh and I were discussing a “white person” and although what they did was wrong we believed they could have won at trial but the government is always able to find a way to bully a victory.
Query from Mike:
As requested, below is the Lori Loughlin opinion that I wrote a couple of weeks ago. (It was in response to what you wrote about the police officers being prosecuted for George Floyd’s death; I said that the Lori Loughlin case is another example of a high-profile prosecution that seems to be a miscarriage of justice.)
PLEASE SEE BELOW THIS DIALOGUE ‘STRING’ FOR THE ITEM MENTIONED BY MIKE ABOVE
Response from Josh:
Thank you for your thought-provoking, original, and independent analysis of the situation. It is great to have the situation looked at with fresh eyes and a perspective unencumbered by political correctness, etc.
You are quite correct that all three officers deserve a fair trial. Kueng and Lane seem to have already been tried and convicted by the press, which is quite unfair, particularly given the facts that you laid out about not only how new they were to the police force but also how they had, in fact, questioned Chauvin’s actions. (What more could they have done in their situation, as novice police officers in the presence of a veteran officer who would reasonably be expected to know what he was doing?)
Even Chauvin, who certainly appears guilty and deservant of punishment, must first get a fair trial, have his day in court, and truly be “presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Another high-profile prosecution that has bothered me in recent months – on a completely different topic – is what is happening to actress Lori Loughlin. It certainly appears that she is guilty of paying the money to falsify her kids’ backgrounds to get them into college, but the threat of 40 years in prison for this? That is more than we give most people convicted of rape, in many cases. Frankly, I do not understand how justice is served with her serving any time in prison for this, rather than having to pay a fine and then moving on with life, as this was a white collar crime, not a violent crime. The prosecutors seem to be pandering to the media, rather than truly seeking justice there.
In the end, she was, essentially, forced to plead guilty just to avoid a punishment that seems far too harsh under these circumstances, completely flying in the face of the idea that the burden of proof must be 100% on the government to prove the elements of a crime; basically, her guilty plea seems akin to a forced confession, something that we normally associate with Third World dictatorships and not with the Anglo-American justice system that I so revere.
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I feel I should be permitted to protest the treatment of police officers in the same manner – as protestors are able to demonstrate against the mistreatment and subsequent death of George Floyd
Some people will say that I am crazy to write this article. Some people will tell me I will get death threats. Well in the same way the protestors want to be heard I am going to stick up for a few of the officers who have been charged in the George Floyd death.
I am tired of listening to CEO after CEO speak about racial equality and how ‘things have to change’ – and then try to guess which ones are sincere and which ones are just using this whole situation as leverage to further their corporate interests. CNBC is a long run ‘talk show’ which seems to be just one commercial after another staging executives spouting politically correct things about racial equality – when many of them have never shown any previous interest in the subject matter in their entire career(s).
I am asking people to consider a few facts before this group of officers is convicted – without a fair trial.
I see these officers as sacrificial lambs with no chance of a fair trial. I think the Power Brokers across the USA, (who think what is coming will make the Rodney King Los Angeles Riots seem small) will push hard for convictions in the case(s) of these officers.
Here are a few facts to consider before you rush to judgment on all the officers:
Officer J. Alexander Kueng had not yet completed his third full shift as a police officer. That is right his third night on the job! During the arrest he said the words, “You shouldn’t be doing that”.
He along with officers Tou Thao and Thomas Lane are charged with aiding and abetting murder, as well as aiding and abetting manslaughter.
Lane was also new to the job, only on the force for four days when the incident occurred. On the video you can hear Lane saying, “Shall we roll him over” in his concern that Floyd may be in delirium. He seemed to think things were not being done properly.
Lane, prior to his arrest, worked as a volunteer at the Somali Youth Center helping to tutor disadvantaged kids with science and math activities. I mention this to put a human face to this officer.
Two of these officers were new on the job and following the direction of the senior officer Derek Chauvin who worked on the force for more than 18 years. Chauvin had 18 prior complaints against him. Tou Thao, who was also involved in Floyd’s arrest, had six complaints filed and five were closed without discipline. Keung and Lane had no complaints filed.
Kueng and Lane were new on the job and it reasonable to expect that they would follow the lead of a veteran of 18 years.
Each of these officers is now facing up to 40 years in prison and if convicted would likely be put into solitary confinement as there is no way they could be put in the general prison population given the circumstances and high profile of this case.
Yes, these officers used excessive force but one consideration is Floyd had underlying conditions including hypertensive heart disease, fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use.
In large part I believe Chauvin can be held accountable but before the entire country rushes to judgement let’s give these police officers a fair trial.
From a personal perspective, when I went down to the Las Vegas Strip to witness the protest marches I noticed that a large majority of the protestors were white – in their teens and early twenties. I had expected to see a large section of African Americans between 30 to 70 years old. Some people seemed sincere and some seemed as though they were just excited to have something to do. It really made me question that, other than possibly showing support, what these young white kids were doing was filling in time without any understanding of what was going on. Again, some were genuine, but many seemed not to be.
I will speak my truth and people may not like my position but I am sure I am saying what many people are thinking.
You might say I am likely a white privileged male. Well I am 55 and white but grew up in a house with 6 kids where both parents worked 2 jobs each to provide. There were no perks, and nothing ever ‘handed’ to is – in any form. I certainly did not grow up in an environment of entitlement.
The most intense personal example that I had, on the front lines of racial discrimination, was when I was in grade 12. I was a disc jockey and had a gig at the Derby Night Club on Gottingen Street in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I was told not to play “hip hop” music and only “white” music. The owner said he wanted a “more white” clientele.
As the night progressed & as I played music, I did not think this was right and so reverted to playing a cross section of music in order to play for everyone. At the end of the shift was fired.
I believe that there are times when officers use inappropriate force – especially when making arrests on warrants for nonviolent crimes (with implementation first thing in the morning) with many officers – guns drawn – kicking down doors. In such cases ‘excessive’ seems to cover these procedures.
Police; however, deal with difficult situations and, with the current pressure on them, they are going to think twice about what they are doing – which will likely lead to unintended consequences – where force may be merited and not utilized resulting in perhaps even more deaths.
We did not know George Floyd and I certainly believe he did not deserve to die this way; however, let’s not convict these officers without knowing all the facts.
It looks bad for Derek Chauvin and on the face of it hard to defend him in this article but again let’s let the proper judicial process happen.
One final important point is the media’s coverage of the Corona Virus as – the worst thing to hit humanity in 100 years – resulting in television ratings being off the charts with viewership. Now the racial protests are getting even more viewership than corona virus and the virus is barely mentioned and it makes me wonder – is it just about the ratings?
I believe the nonstop media coverage of the Floyd story is counter indicated as, in many respects, it tends to feedthe protests.
I really wonder if stations like CNN and MSNBC help to mobilize the protestors by glorifying their actions as guest after guest comes on these channels in support of what they are doing. I think any rational person will think the looting in some cities was out of control but any discussion on a tougher crackdown is generally being met with widespread condemnation or at least seen as being “politically incorrect”.
The media has helped feed the protests and thus the consequences.
Many people are questioning the sincerity of a large number of those protesting.
In conclusion, people are afraid to speak the truth; however, I will stand and state for anyone who will listen
These officers deserve a fair trial.