by Charles Moncrief
There is a way that seems right, but its end is the way of death.
Rodney King was found dead in his southern California swimming pool on June 17, 2012. You can essentially ignore the medical examiner’s report. No official government report will tell you that the true cause of his death was a pattern of self-destructive behavior that set in motion his inevitable end.
Those in my generation remember Rodney King as an African-American man who was beaten by several Los Angeles police officers during a traffic stop in 1991. An amateur video shows the officers hitting Mr. King with their batons as other officers stood by and watched. The acquittal of the officers by a jury in 1992 provided an excuse for riots in South Central Los Angeles, in which more than 50 people were killed and more than 2,000 were injured. The US District Court effectively re-tried the officers, sending two of them to prison and strong-arming the city of Los Angeles to pay off Rodney King with a $3.5 million civil-rights settlement. Mr. King didn’t keep the settlement very long, and he was unsuccessful at obtaining more from his later arrests for continued drug use and other crimes. Among these arrests were for driving under the influence of PCP when he crashed into a power pole in 2005, and for suspicion of domestic violence. In 2007 police found Mr. King drunk and wounded from gunshot wounds believed to be associated with domestic violence. In all of the arrests the police conduct was reported as EXEMPLARY. No King was harmed in the making of future arrest movies.
The amateur video, which made for excellent propaganda in such places as Moscow and Bagdad, showed the power of editing by major news media. The video didn’t include the high-speed chase, including the number of pursuing units, nor did it show the lives that Mr. King endangered when he drove at freeway speeds through residential streets to evade capture. No propagandists aired Mr. King’s statement that he was fleeing police because he feared the impact a DWI arrest would have on his parole from a previous robbery conviction.
While it appears I'm beating up on Rodney King myself, I can’t argue. Hopefully, I'll mitigate the hammering in my conclusion. Either that, or I'll give additional causes of offense and dilute this a bit. First, however, I want to be perfectly clear about some things.
He DID NOT deserve the beating by officers.
He DID NOT deserve the physical destruction of his life by illegal drug use and other crimes.
He DID NOT deserve the gunshot wounds he sustained on at least one occasion.
While he upped the odds of these things happening, he did not deserve them.
For the mentoring effect he had on the younger generation, showing them examples of how they can clean up financially through a life of crime and civil-rights incidents, it seems that he could have made this speech:
“I've upped my odds. Now up yours.”
I've spent too much time on the Rodney King incident, so now I'm reducing to one-liners the things I wanted to address more fully. Here goes.
Several athletes from Duke University upped their odds of rape charges when they repeatedly hung out in exotic bars and formed relationships with the female employees. For three in 2006, the probability became a certainty.
A person escaping a relationship of domestic violence ups her odds of serious injury when she returns to the home in response to pleas from her husband and the family minister.
A man ups the odds of coronary artery disease when he lives a sedentary lifestyle and consumes inappropriate foods. (Sorry, I can’t get more specific than that. A juicy steak may hurt some, while broom straws and other fibers may hurt others. But you get the idea.)
Fair is fair. I can’t close without returning to make a final comment about Rodney King.
I was disgusted when I learned that he blew through the $3.5 million, disappointed that he didn’t use even a part of the money for drug rehabilitation. Mea culpa. Mr. King may not have used the settlement money to fund any rehabilitation, but he DID make the effort to rebuild his life. He did attend rehabilitation, and he did take to the lecture circuit making speeches about the destructive effects of drug abuse. Even after turning cynic and taking cynical points off Mr. King’s appearance on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew and Sober House, the good that Mr. King did in the last few years must not be allowed to die with him. Even in the dirtiest places, a flower can grow.
Grace and Peace,
Anglican Priest, Charles Moncrief, serves up the issues of the day on a platter mixed with scripture, seriousness, and a sense of humor to create a ministry founded in love for his fellow man.
“I’m an Anglican Priest, disguised as a geek during the week. It’s REALLY tough to change my costume, since phone booths are getting hard to find!”