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During my conversation with Mayor Jerry Sanders the other day, I asked him about criticism. He’s endured a lot lately. I wondered how it was wearing on him.
City boosters, after all, had to beg former Mayor Dick Murphy to run for re-election. Were the daily attacks (or what he read of them at least) wearing on Sanders’ resolve to run again?
He answered with some predictable thoughts about the value of some criticism and the uselessness of other. He said he was totally committed to running again.
But at one point, he digressed into a fascinating reflection about his experience with criticism — specifically, he talked about the 1984 massacre at a San Ysidro McDonald’s.
I’m just going to put up what he said:
Let me go back to something that sets the stage for all of this. You know, I’ve been a cop for a long time and, you know, when the McDonald’s thing hit, I was SWAT commander and I took a lot of criticism, I mean a lot, I got criticized by people who knew what was going on. I got criticized by people who didn’t know what was going on. I got criticized from all over the country. I got telegrams, I got letters. I got criticized inside the department because there was a divide on how it should have been handled.
I took all of that criticism as being very important. I also got a lot of feedback from the FBI hostage rescue team, from the LAPD swat team that we did it exactly by the book.
But what I learned is 22 people died and that’s a bad outcome no matter how you look at it.
Whether we could have prevented it — which we couldn’t. Whether we could have stopped it — which we tried our best. It doesn’t matter. Twenty-two people died and no one is going to come up and slap you on the back and say hey, that was a great job.
I learned from that to learn what I could from the criticism and what I learned from that was, you know, that was very hard on a lot of people. It psychologically scarred the community for a long time. And that’s important to me and I think that as I’ve moved through life now, I gauge everything against that.
That was a pretty tough day. Now, when people criticize me in politics and over some of that, I think I’m able to put it in perspective pretty well. That’s not to say it’s not important, because a lot of it is, but it’s not as important as that day.