Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lessons From Steubenville

Dalai's Note:  It seems that Dalai, Jr., has discovered the cathartic effects of writing, especially after a brutal Chem exam! Here is is latest, and I agree with every word....

The light shining through your window hits your face, and you instinctively open your eyes. Big mistake. The drinks from the night before have taken a toll on your body, and the hangover is hitting you like a massive freight train carrying twenty cars of nausea, headache, and dehydration. You hear a buzzing, and see your phone is lighting up with 1, 2, 5, 10 new text messages. You read everything from “R u ok?” to “I CNT BELIEVE U DID THT U WHORE!” You wonder what everyone’s talking about, but realize that you don’t know because you don’t remember anything from last night. Something about a party…some drinks…a car ride… and then nothing.

The next Monday at school, you’re ignored by all your friends, who call you a liar and a slut. You’re still not sure why. That is until someone waves the pictures in your face. Suddenly it becomes clear. You’re afraid to say anything, because after all, you’re the one who got drunk. You’re the one who didn’t stay in control of yourself. It’s your fault. Not those guys. They didn’t mean any harm, they were just messing around. It’s how guys are, everyone knows that.

Eventually though, you confide the truth in someone, and accusations are made. Even though the boys are put in prison, you’re publicly shamed and faulted for being unconscious. For drinking too much. For letting yourself be raped. You’re told on the national stage that you should have kept better control. That you were asking for it. That you have no right to press charges. All your fears are coming true, and you wish you had never said anything at all. Because after all, it is your fault. Right?

As I’m sure we’ve all heard by now, two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio were accused of raping an unconscious sixteen year old girl at a party last August. There are several pictures of the two boys digitally penetrating the helpless, passed out young woman, but for some reason the world, and especially the mainstream media, has continued to try to protect them. At first, the entire incident was nearly swept under the rug by local officials who didn’t want to see the local high school’s star players kept out of the game. Later, once the guilty verdict was handed down earlier this week, the world cried out for the “two young men [who] had such promising young futures" (CNN), instead of rejoicing in the fact that two criminals had been brought to justice.

So what does that say about us as a nation? First and foremost, the amount of victim blaming that has occurred over the course of this trial has been, frankly, sickening. Yes, the survivor of this heinous—but all too common—crime should not have drunk as much as she did. Yes, she should have kept better control over herself and her actions. But does that give someone the right to do whatever he wants to her as she is passed out and probably in need of medical attention? I am ashamed to live in a country that so clearly thinks along these lines.

If you think that this girl is to blame for getting herself into the situation, then you could not be more wrong. Yes, we are responsible for our actions, regardless of whether we are drunk or high or sober, but does that mean that those around us are allowed to suspend their accountability and human decency simply because it’s our fault for getting drunk? No. In fact, situations like that are where our kindness is supposed to shine through. Instead of videotaping their buddies, those bystanders should have been calling an ambulance, the police, or at the very least keeping those two animals away from her.

You may question my use of that word to describe Trent Mays and Ma'Lik Richmond, but that’s exactly what they behaved like that evening. Sure, you can say that they were drunk as well, but then again, aren’t we responsible for what we do when we’re drunk? No, these boys acted with no regard for the humanity or well being of their victim. They saw something they wanted and took it. They’d been taught their entire lives that they could have everything they could possibly desire as long as they were good at throwing, catching, and hitting a couple strips of leather.

I grew up in a small Southern town, where high school football was overshadowed only by college football and church, but mostly college football. During my high school years, I served a stint on the school’s Honor Council, the committee of students tasked with trying cases of cheating on campus. In my second trial ever, we were brought what should have been a very cut and dry case. A student was caught with a cheat sheet during an exam, and the teacher turned him in. Under most circumstances, our recommended punishment, a one day suspension, would have been carried out immediately that Friday. There was one small problem, though. The defendant was not any ordinary student. He was the quarterback of the football team, with no real second string replacement. With the biggest game of the season coming up on Friday, the defendant was let off with a slap on the wrist and one early morning detention the next week.

Is this fair? No, but not just to those around this student. This young man was taught his entire life that he could do no wrong and that all his messes would be cleaned up for him, simply because he was an athlete. Yes, those students who actually work for their grades had been cheated, but they at least know how to function as ordinary human beings. When they go out into the world, they will know how to take responsibility for their actions and take care of themselves. I don’t think I can say the same of the quarterback. While his peers learned early on that their actions have consequences, he will one day have to realize this truth the hard way, much like Mays and Richmond did. He is not the one we should crucify for this travesty of school hall justice.

So who is to blame?

In short, everyone. You, me, the media, politicians, everyone is at fault. We have developed and sustained a society that teaches its youngest generation so many warped lessons. Girls are taught not to dress provocatively because it’s asking to be raped. Boys are taught to worship athletes, musicians (if you can call rappers musicians), and movie stars who sexually and physically abuse women, take illegal drugs, and routinely act as if they are above the law.

You may be thinking to yourself, “I don’t respect those people, and I certainly wouldn’t want my kids to do so, either.” Then do something about it. Sit your kids down and tell them that no matter how famous or rich or attractive they may or may not become, they are still and will always be human beings. Don’t show your boys how to hold a bat, teach them to hold themselves accountable for their actions. Take your daughters to a self-defense class, don’t tell her that she is a helpless victim. Your son deserves to know how to act as a functioning member of society, and your daughter deserves to be able to go to a party without fear.

Fortunately, a good majority of parents already do those things. However, there are still plenty of parents that need to wake up to reality themselves. These patterns in our society have taken root because plenty of people believe that their sons or daughters will grow up to be the next Peyton Manning or Beyonce. Sadly though, all these parents are doing is setting their children up to be the next Mays or Ma’Lik, so engrossed in themselves and their own wants that they harm those around them with their selfishness and lying.


Anonymous said...

Sadly after all was said and down I wonder if the kids really learned a lesson, since after the verdict 2 girls are now accused of threatening the girl using social media. I would have thought of all things we would hear about something like that.

Celticpiping said...

I hope and pray(literally) that my kids, when their time comes, wouldn't be a country mile FROM that such a party...

"train up a child..."