Henry Louis Gates had a bad day this week. So did a lot of other people.

 Henry Louis Gates had a bad day this week. So did a lot of other people.

On Monday, a dear friend of mine suffered a heart attack that should have killed him. During his long life, he has done everything right: working hard, serving others, eating right, and exercising, but the heart attack gods inexplicably struck him. His widow-maker (left anterior descending) artery was 95 percent blocked. He survived only because he had developed an alternative blood supply to his heart.

Bad things happen to good people -- frequently. Of my nine siblings, many are struggling. A brother and a sister, both attorneys, are unemployed. A schoolteacher sister recently lost her modest Michigan home to foreclosure. Her husband had a good job as a computer programmer for a GM parts supplier, but he was laid off 18 months ago. In December 2005, my 5-year-old niece died in her sleep of unknown causes, an incident that still haunts us. On May 9, 2009, my mother-in-law died in our Cambridge home.   Many families are in similar straits. Last night, Gov. Patrick held a forum at Roxbury Community College for a group of African Americans. One South End woman told the governor: “I was laid off my job about 10 months ago … I was a program coordinator in a homeless shelter, and my husband lost his job seven months ago. He’s a union carpenter.”    According to WBUR, people talked for two hours about unemployment, transportation, drug addiction, and the Franklin Zoo. No one mentioned Mr. Gates. Racial profiling may be a reality, but it is certainly not the most pressing one for these folks.   In the middle of a news conference to address health care (and government control of 18 percent of the U.S. GDP), President Obama inexplicably raised the issue of Mr. Gates’ arrest. Some commentators have accused the president of deliberately raising the issue to deflect attention from his failed August deadline for revamping health care. I cannot buy that. When I become that cynical about American politicians, then I fear I will no longer have the heart to remain civically engaged.   Nonetheless, President Obama’s verbal slip speaks volumes about the arrogance of what constitutes a bad day for certain members of society. It also suggests a troubling carelessness about the enormity of the changes Congress is suggesting to our tax and health-care structures. The devil is in the details, and the details deserve more scrutiny than they have received during this rushed process.   As a long-time Cantabrigian, I initially concurred with President Obama: Cambridge police had acted “stupidly” and engaged in blatant racial profiling. This entire incident would not have happened if Cambridge police knew the residents of the neighborhoods where they work. City Councilor Craig Kelley, a tireless advocate of community policing, nonetheless kindly steered me away from writing an uninformed rant. Fools rush in where angels (and experts) fear to tread.   As more facts emerged, it became clear that the story was not black and white, either literally or figuratively. By all reports, Officer Crowley is an exemplary policeman, one whom I would want to protect my house. I want my neighbors to report suspicious activity. Last fall, some low-life stole my four children’s bicycles. I don’t want that person back.   Like President Obama, my judgment of Officer Crowley was hasty and uninformed. Unlike President Obama, I have neither a national platform nor a Constitutional obligation to represent all Americans, uniformed and civilian.   On Wednesday, Phillip Morris, a black columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote a thoughtful summation of the Gates situation:   "Most urban black males are convinced that they have been racially profiled … That's life. But I am also convinced that the outcome of many questionable police encounters depend largely on the reaction of the detained -- black or white. A boisterous challenge, filled with screams of racism, or threats, will make the encounter worse."   That which unites us is greater than that which divides us. All Cantabrigians want the same things: good schools, safe neighborhoods, honest government, quality health care, and a healthy economy (and, of course, world peace). Achieving these things depends on the unflagging efforts of a lot of ordinary people, any one of whom may be having a really bad day.   Wicked Local Cambridge contributor Elizabeth Harmer-Dionne is a resident of Hancock Park and a member of the Ward 6 Cambridge Republican City Committee. The Right View is a bimonthly column written by a member of the Cambridge Republican City Committee.