The scourge of silent wingmen

After I wrote the post below, this excellent commentary by award-winning sportswriter Rick Reilly was published. He says it all.

 


 

The trial of Jerry Sandusky is in the works–he’s the former Penn State football coach charged with more than 50 counts of abusing boys and young men over a decade.

The testimony is graphic.  (I’m not linking to it. It is not hard to find.) And, now a 30-something man who was adopted and grew up in the Sandusky home has come forward to allege abuse. This is going to get worse.

Sandusky is innocent until proven otherwise, and I firmly believe that witch hunts do happen. But it is an impossible stretch to believe there is no truth to the charges. Before one word of testimony, and on his very best day, Sandusky was a man with boundaries made of air who made it his life’s mission to be around vulnerable kids.

People working with kids who are molested know all about the societal structures and pressures that protect serial abusers. But as one more helpless observer, not a professional, I continue to be shocked.

I do know that priests, coaches and the like have been able to get away with this stuff because of the respect and love (and sometimes fear) they are afforded by kids and parents. Way back in the 1960s, before “inappropriate touching” was a term known to first graders, I had a mother who was crystal clear when explaining to me what adults were not supposed to do to kids. Even she let me go to church and synagogue events unsupervised. Later, living at boarding school, I would have walked off a cliff (or worse) for a beloved teacher or coach. But I was one of the lucky ones; my authority figures were the good guys.

But what is more striking to me now as I read the Sandusky coverage is the elaborate protection systems that grow up around serial abusers. Some powerful factions in the Roman Catholic Church got so good at circling the wagons that the collateral damage will never be sorted out. Sandusky’s world is quite skilled at playing hide-the-villain too. I find myself being ever more appalled by those who stood by, burying their suspicions or even actual knowledge.

I don’t know what combination of genes, environment and inexplicable evil it takes to create a sexual predator within an institution meant to teach and protect young people. I do know that it takes some gutless wingmen to allow it to keep happening.

 

 

Blame the victim, create the victim. We do both.

The story about the aftermath of an attack on a CBS newswoman in Tahir Square and the obituary for B.N. Nathanson, the famous abortion defender-turned-opponent don’t bear any similarities on the surface. But both reveal the power of provocative views spoken loud.

After Lara Logan was separated from her news crew, beaten and assaulted by a mob, a number of  bloggers, Tweeters and “columnists” took her to task for being there in the first place. And we’re not talking about anonymous idiots; these are commentators with big, visible platforms. (No, I’m not going to link to them. )

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who quickly went after the hateful Logan-bashing writers, as did Kim Barker, ProPublica journalist, also writing for the NYTimes. Other writers are still responding with articulate anger. One of the common points is that Logan is being punished for her sex and looks (attractive, blonde female); more than one writer points out that no one would berate a man for being mobbed and sodomized.

There are two reasons for this kind of blame-the-victim spewing: The spewer is a publicity-seeking fuckwit willing to use any shocking rhetoric to stand out. Or, s/he needs to believe that evil things happen for reasons, e.g. you get raped  if you’re too pretty. The reality of random hate crimes is too frightening to acknowledge. (There is now actually debate over whether Logan was raped or “just” sexually assaulted.)

Now, Nathanson. This intelligent activist doctor had a lot to do with legalizing abortion and moving it from a back-alley butcher’s job to the safe medical procedure that is the right of every woman. Later, upset by the large numbers of procedures he carried out and supervised, he spoke up as an opponent to the procedure. In both incarnations he wielded great power over public opinion. He founded what became the powerful pro-choice group NARAL and he gave the anti-abortion faction their favorite line when he pointed out a fetus’s “silent scream” while narrating a sonogram of an abortion in progress.

The other similarity between these news stories is that they reveal the only-sometimes-veiled misogyny that still exists in our society. Nathanson was okay with abortion as long as not many women exercised their right to make decisions about their own bodies, lives and health. Commentators (and others who silently agree and don’t challenge them) mouth politically correct sentiments about women being equal to men in the world of journalism, until they get a chance to berate them for being too attractive, too female, and for asking for trouble.

In both cases, I wonder how this sexism would hold up if the tables were turned: The hate-blogger gets left alone with an angry mob or the anti-choicer is told that he cannot elect a medically safe surgery, but must instead sneak off with a fistful of cash to a dangerous, illegal appointment.

A state for the robber barons.

Columnist Paul Krugman takes a tough stand in his New York Times column. Consider this excerpt:

“…if you want to find real political rage — the kind of rage that makes people compare President Obama to Hitler, or accuse him of treason — you won’t find it among these suffering Americans. You’ll find it instead among the very privileged, people who don’t have to worry about losing their jobs, their homes, or their health insurance, but who are outraged, outraged, at the thought of paying modestly higher taxes.”

As Krugman points out, everyone gets to whine…but things are really going south when Forbes magazine runs a cover story saying that President Obama “is deliberately trying to bring America down as part of his Kenyan, ‘anticolonialist’ agenda, that the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s.”

These rich people are obviously terrified. And of what, exactly?

Maybe it would be easier to let this one percent of super-wealthy Americans have their own state. They can elect their friends to leadership positions, ban all state income taxes, and call in their state’s militia when anyone tries to cross the border who doesn’t think the way they think.

Of course, it might be tough to form a state militia. Or get the living rooms cleaned.

As for that clogged bathroom drain…unplug it yourself, moneybags. All the little people are busy helping the President figure out ways to screw you out of your last buck.

Yeah, Nick. I’m sorry too.

Prejudice, even xenophobia, is not always all about hate. Sometimes it’s about plain ol’ laziness.

This insight dropped on me this morning like the anvil in the old Roadrunner cartoons. Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times column, “Message to Muslims: I’m Sorry” was the shove.

Kristof makes the point that those of us who fume over the question “Why don’t moderate Muslims speak up against extremists?” should also ask another question:

Why don’t I, a moderate non-Muslim in America, speak up against the extremists in my own country?

Well, let’s see. I guess I’ve decided that Tea Party folks, Fox News, Rush Whatshisname, and followers of Sarah Palin are so absurd that there’s no reason to spend time debating their hateful and demoralizing messages and their flatly untrue “reporting.”

And I guess I’ve shrugged off the Arizona approach to illegal immigration because it seems so patently ineffective that it is beside the point to decry its racism.

And maybe because our tax structure is easily dismissed as slimy self-interested rich people taking care of their own, I haven’t felt much need to point out that it is systematic discrimination and larceny directed at the working poor.

In other words, because it is easier to ask: Why don’t those moderate Muslims stand up for what’s right?

I’ll tell you what: I’ll do better.

As with any new exercise, I’ll start slow. Whenever I hear someone trot out that moderate Muslim criticism, I’ll look up from my full plate in my cozy home long enough to say: Bullshit.

I can do it, I know I can.

It makes a patriot proud.

There’s a guy in Florida, leader of a church in Gainesville, who has come up with a novel way to recognize the tragedies of 9/11: He’s going to burn a big pile of copies of the Qur’an, the sacred writings of Islam.

Now, of course no one with the common sense God gave a walnut would take this person seriously. He is no more representative of Christians than the Energizer bunny, and considerably less intelligent. And he sure as hell is no “pastor,” never mind what it says under “occupation” on the permit for the pistol strapped to his hip.

The book-cooker in Florida seems like a random kook until you consider that forty-six percent of Republicans polled claim to think President Barak Obama is a secret Muslim. (See Tim Egan’s good essay on that idiocy.)

The whole world is watching, and we’re demonstrating that in a true democracy, you can say or do just about any asinine thing you want without fear of punishment. We’re also proving that we’re every bit as good at producing haters, fear-mongers, liars and fools as the next nation.

There is a God: Dr. Laura quits.

Dr. Laura, who is to doctors what canned maraschino cherries are to fruit, is quitting her syndicated radio show.

She isn’t going to retire, she says, just extricate herself from situations in which she can be unfairly criticized for using the word,  “n*****r” some 11 times in one radio broadcast.

Okay, Miss Klan-mouth, go find that place where you can say whatever you want, whenever you want, without anyone raising an eyebrow. It’s that place where the nice nurses lock you in, take your shoelaces and sedate you.

I guess there are a lot of white people in America who feel that if Chris Rock can say that word every 3 seconds, then we Caucasians should get to use it at least once a year. Or twice, if a black person cuts us off in traffic.

So, conversely, if black people stop saying it, these white people will ban that ignorant old slur from THEIR vocabularies too?

Yes, it’s all becoming clearer to me now. It’s up to black folks to set this straight. Right.