Grumpy Old Man: No more flipping the bird

It’s time we started cracking down on the abhorrent, ugly or merely stupid behavior infecting this country from top to bottom.

By
May 28, 2015 13:03
Israel Police

Screenshot of video showing police officer attacking IDF soldier‏.. (photo credit: screenshot)

 
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A couple of years back, I read a news item from the Old Country about a 32-year-old man named Luis Santana. He was standing on a street corner in a seedier part of town at about 10 p.m. He was holding a white parrot. The parrot had been stolen. The cops showed up, but not for the bird. It seems reports had come in about a street brawl. Santana didn’t know this, though, so he ran, parrot and all.

One of the cops was faster. Santana turned and threw the avian at him.

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Officer Gary Kichar reacted by raising his hands. The parrot, probably deeply concerned at this point, clamped his beak firmly around one of Kichar’s fingers.

The cop was treated at the scene. As for Santana, he was soon found hiding in a bathroom. He was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer, interfering with a police officer, cruelty to an animal and second-degree burglary (because, it turns out, the bathroom did not belong to him). Oh yes, there was also a charge of disorderly conduct.

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I’m reminded of this story due to so much of the recent news we’ve been treated to right here at home.

We have a former prime minister being given an additional eight months in prison, on top of the six years he’s waiting to serve for a separate conviction also involving bribery, fraud and a host of other offenses. In as little as a month and a half, he could join a former president who’s behind bars for rape.

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Then there’s the ex-con sitting in our government after doing 22 months for offenses involving cash and its misuse.

One of his new titles? “Economy minister,” which to my ears sounds like it involves money.

We also have a police force that’s eager to repair an image deeply tarnished not only by apparent racism, but by gross incompetence throughout the ranks. There are, as well, those top officers who were in line for the commissioner’s job and bided their time with shenanigans that ran the gamut from inordinately close ties with unabashedly unsavory characters to pulling rank and a certain body part on female subordinates.

To distract us from all this, the force is now hauling in mobsters wholesale under the catchy title Case 512. These thugs – long waging turf wars with bombs and automatic weapons, often in broad daylight outside shops, on busy streets and near kindergartens – now take up extended segments on the evening news as they smugly amble into courtrooms for arraignment, smiling for the cameras and throwing kisses to supporters who have shown up to wish them well.

Talk about disorderly conduct. And like Luis Santana, they’re all – every last one of them – flipping the rest of us the bird.


PSYCHOLOGISTS GALORE have had a field day with an Israeli psyche that seems to highlight extreme confidence and the ability to dodge convention and think outside the box.

In the early days, it was called “pluckiness,” an admirable trait that had us thumbing our collective nose at all the adversity, danger and even hostility the world kept throwing us. It was this that made the desert bloom, the IDF win and our young people coalesce into a “startup nation.” All, or at least most of it, the thinking went, stemmed from a culture that prized education and from a reality that all too often forced us to think on our feet as we fled from one oppressor to the next.

The pluckiness, though, has given way to something darker, where many of us are seen as no longer thumbing our nose but raising it in an arrogance that goes beyond a mere “we’ll show ’em” to “we’ll screw ’em.” It’s as if the friendly, simple and innocent fellow in the kova tembel morphed somewhere along the line into a hardened, cunning and, yes, haughty creature out not merely to survive, but to grab what he feels is coming to him and, in the process, teach the world a much-deserved lesson.

You can see it every day, and not just during the nightly perp walk on the evening news. It’s right there alongside us in the trenches.

A couple of weeks ago, an Egged driver not only cut me off, he almost forced me from the road by pulling abreast and then straight into my lane without even bothering to signal. A little farther along, he slowed for a bus stop. Instead of pulling in and waiting his turn behind the bus already there, he stopped alongside, double-parking, as it were, and partially blocking a busy thoroughfare.

There was just enough room for me to squeeze by. When I pulled even with the driver, I paused, lowered the passenger window, honked and looked over.

His thick head of curly hair was shiny with pomade. He was wearing expensive shades. A toothpick dangled from between his lips.

He did not open his window. He just looked back at me. He then made a face, touched an index finger to a temple, held up his hand, palm open, and quickly swiveled it from side to side as he gave a curt shake of his head. It was the Israeli way of saying: You got a problem, bud? I did have a problem. I was sick and tired of having to deal with bus drivers who think they can do anything they want with their monster vehicles just because the rest of us have a certain phobia about being dragged in a crushed sedan to the next bus stop.

Perhaps the only way to nip this type of pigheaded behavior in the bud, at least before it can flower into the upper reaches of society, is through public shaming.

It’s getting awfully popular. Remember the grainy, garbled smartphone footage of the snotty, even deranged airline passenger when the cabin attendant politely told her there was no more chocolate? It became the national topic to the point where news broadcasts soon began showing us similar smartphoned instances of the Ugly Israeli.

Unfortunately, the genre took a fullbody hit last weekend when a woman of color went to Facebook to accuse an Interior Ministry official of racism. There was no footage or even sound of the encounter.

There was no proof at all, yet it garnered thousands of likes and quite a few frighteningly horrid comments, perhaps because we’re now in semi-introspection mode over the exposure of social and institutional racism toward Ethiopian Israelis.

Things got so nasty and out of hand thanks to our unbridled social media ways that the official killed himself.


MAYBE THE answer is a few more of those miniature, high-definition camcorders pioneered by the lunatics who want you to experience along with them every nauseating flip, painful jolt and hellishly terrifying moment of their extreme sport. You can put these babies anywhere and gather absolutely inviolable proof next time you’re the butt of poor behavior.

Soon, with more of us on the business end of hi-tech recording devices, evening news broadcasts could devote entire segments to birds getting flipped in crystal-clear living color and Dolby sound.

Could we soon go picking through the boydem for those long-discarded kova tembels? I doubt it. But visions of 1984 or not, we just might lose the arrogance and become lovingly plucky once again.

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