For better or worse, we’re living in the age of social media and near-instant, near-omnipresent access to news and events in this country. An event that might have been known to 20-30 people in a small town and never spread further than that 100 years ago will be known to millions across the world in a matter of hours or minutes today. And unlike hearing something on the news delivered by some professional talking head, snippets of information from all corners of the world are shared with you by friends and co-workers in your circle of acquaintances. That puts the imprint of the personal on these things and, I think, makes you care more about a given situation than you otherwise might.
This effect gets amplified, I believe, when you’re talking about something that would be genuinely offensive to an individual were they present. And when someone out there goes out of their way to be offensive to someone you respect you want to see that offense dealt with appropriately. When it’s not – when it appears that no consequence comes to the offender – the sense of offense both escalates to outrage and continues to smolder in the back of one’s mind, often coloring one’s perspective of future events.
I’m more than aware that the news industry thrives on outrage. They’re less interested in resolution. But the media isn’t the only party at fault in some of these cases. In the last month there’s been plenty of attacks, literal and otherwise, on members of law enforcement throughout the country. Those of us who are generally supportive of police have become even more sensitive to calls for actions against the cops and are more sensitive to incidents of just plain disrespect and disregard for them. Last week there were 2 such incidents that made the social media circuits.
In Washington State a Chinese restaurant got more attention than they wanted after an employee told 4 deputies there that they, and law enforcement in general, were no longer welcome there because they made the other customers “nervous.” The reaction was swift as the news of that went viral and people started venting at the restaurant’s owners. On the heels of hundreds, if not thousands, of harsh reviews and vows to never do business with them again, the owners told reporters that it was “all a misunderstanding” and that they were happy to serve police officers there. The Sheriff apparently had a talk with them and posted an update on the Office’s Facebook page saying all was ok now.
In Shelby, NC, a Zaxby’s restaurant had employees that heckled a couple of cops that showed up for dinner and apparently dumped so much hot sauce into their food that it was inedible. Zaxby’s said they were sorry and would investigate the matter. A few days later both Zaxby’s and the police department issued statements that the investigation was closed to their mutual satisfaction and that no further statement would be made.
How the hell does an employee tell police officers that they’re not welcome – and that statement was confirmed to the Sheriff himself on a phone call with the owner, by the way – and that be a “misunderstanding?” Well, reporters tell us it was a language barrier. They tell us that – apparently – neither the owner nor the employee (the owner’s son, by the way) speak English very well. And that the son witnessed people at a nearby table who were visibly upset about something and he assumed it might be that those people don’t like cops. (The report says the people in question had spilled soup or drinks on their table and, presumably, were upset about that, not the cops.) When the officers came up to pay, the son apparently told them the people didn’t like the cops being around. Things went downhill from there. But that doesn’t make a lot of sense and the follow-up call to the owner resulted in him confirming to the Sheriff what his deputies had been told, not suggesting that his son had made a mistake. So what was it? The owner’s son made an assumption based on nothing? (And why would you automatically assume anyone upset in the vicinity of a cop must not like having cops around?) Or was it that the owner didn’t pick up on that in time to overrule his son’s statement when asked? We don’t really know.
And Zaxby’s supposedly did an investigation. What did they find? We don’t know. They don’t want to say anything other than “the matter is closed.”
In neither case was the offense really answered. In the Zaxby’s case particularly you have a deliberate action taken that caused the offense and the persons responsible… get to remain completely anonymous among us. Was there a consequence for their action? We don’t know, but the tone of statement sure indicates there wasn’t one that met the seriousness of the offense.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we, the public, are owed full access to the management deliberations of a private corporation. We aren’t, plain and simple. But there’s a consequence to that, too. The outrage in unanswered, the offense unresolved. The feeling of a gross unfairness – an injustice – being allowed to simply drop on a group we care about with no ramifications for the parties responsible simply sticks in place. It’s additive; we hear about another one here, one there, and pretty soon it feels non-stop. It’s easy for that kind of feeling to become personal and that will then color our responses going forward.
I think letting the lawyers convince us to never give out details in matters like this is a net mistake.