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Stop and think

Thoughts from Behind the Pressline

I keep coming back to two key words: blame and responsibility.

We’ve witnessed so many senseless events recently that have cost lives, and in most cases for no real apparent reason. Someone feels wronged, and where there is a wrong there must be someone or something to blame. People who commit these acts seem full of excuses and give reasons for certain behavior but are short on accepting personal responsibility.

As a society, we are quick to determine that there must be blame attributed to every event. The simple fact that we need someone or something to blame, we are told, provides closure to the injured parties. But what does it really close?

So as we think about the recent legislation banning New York City’s stop and frisk law, or Delbert Belton the World War II veteran who was senselessly beaten to death, the Australian college student shot and killed in Oklahoma just for fun, or the kidnapping and nearly decade long imprisonment of three young women in Ohio, we try to rationalize and make sense of it all. How do these events happen in our midst, and what role should our society accept for fostering such heinous acts?

By nearly all statistical accounts, stop and frisk saves lives, especially in crime-ridden neighborhoods. Yet the courts have ruled that offending someone by profiling them is far worse than preventing a more serious crime. I recall a few years back, my wife and I were pulled over by the police while driving through Lake Placid. The officer had his hand on his gun as he approached the car. Being perplexed as to why we had been stopped, the officer explained a car matching the description of our car had been involved in a theft. He asked for details on our activities and asked to inspect the inside of the car. We were happy to oblige, knowing we had nothing to hide. He apologized, which in our minds was not at all necessary since he was doing his job — a job we recognized as valuable — but the fact that he offered an apology was a sign of respect and a necessary part of the stop.

Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at dan@newmarketpressvt.com or dan@denpubs.com.

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