Jaywalking is the example you give for the most minor offense possible under the law; it ranks up there with the “no spitting on the sidewalk” ordinances.
Jaywalking is a “summary” offense, like getting a traffic ticket, less than a misdemeanor, and carrying no jail time. If you get caught jaywalking, the worst that can possibly happen is that a cop will give you a ticket and you’ll pay a fine of $25 or so.
Well, unless you’re a young black male.
A few days ago, I posted the above video on my Facebook page, which caused quite a commotion. A cop arrests a kid for jaywalking to catch the bus, detains him, and then is seen beating the kid, who apparently fights back (as would anyone who is being beaten). Even then, the kid doesn’t run away, and the cop then calls over 8 more who surround the kid and harass him.
That’s all I know, based on the video. So I formed an opinion that the cops had tremendously overreacted over the most innocuous “crime” possible.
Some of my Facebook friends took me to task over this, complaining that I didn’t know the whole picture, and then they proceeded to come up with a bunch of possibilities that could have caused the officer to act this way.
Well, geez, I could do that too. What if the kid had fought the officer? What if he was seen with a weapon? What if the kid was actually a lizard space alien who had hypnotized the cop as part of a vast conspiracy to overthrow the planet Earth and steal our women?
Making up stuff to justify your already-held position is really easy to do.
Still, I was accused of being dishonest for making a decision about something when I don’t have all the facts.
Well, that’s how it works. You base an opinion on the facts you have before you. You don’t make up theories about stuff you have no evidence for. And if new facts emerge, you change your opinion to take those into account.
That’s the scientific method, usable in everyday life.
The problem is with people who make up “what if” scenarios to give them a conclusion opposite of all the facts before you. That’s a bit intellectually dishonest, if you ask me. While there is nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t have enough evidence to form an opinion yet” there is definitely something wrong with saying “I have an opinion but it’s not based on any facts we have right now.”
Then again, often these are the same people who will never change their minds when new facts emerge; they’re the ones who never let facts spoil their conclusions.