Monday, November 14, 2011

Sideline Judges

Sooner or Later - N.E.R.D. (mp3)
Truth Be Told - Chris Cubeta (mp3)

“Please don’t. Please please please.”
My ear was flush against the wooden door, and I couldn't move, almost as if it had been glued there...

Nothing is easier than judging from the sideline. When you have no skin in the game, when you have no actual responsibilities, when you can create a fictional, hypothetical and heroic version of yourself, insert them into your own imagined version of real events, and play out every detail however you like, it’s easy to judge real people in their real moments.

He should’ve done that differently. How dare she allow that to happen. How can they go on with their daily lives and ignore that. And so on.

The story is long stale, I guess, but I’m still haunted by Penn State, by an alleged child molester, by the chain reaction of choices and reportage that fell short of sufficient, and by the flood of opinions from all over the country about how easy and simple all of this would have been if only they had been in the center of the hurricane rather than these power-hungry jock egotists at Penn State.

Having been a teenage victim myself, how could I let this story quickly die? I have great hope that this story is the beginning of a national wake-up call, that we might finally be at a place, as an entire society, where talking openly about male-on-male sexual abuse is pulled into the light.

I’ve had these conversations. With real people. It’s easier to talk about, to write about, to debate and discuss Two Girls & A Cup than it is to talk about being molested by an older man.

Think about that, please: adults are more comfortable talking openly about having watched a video where two women make out by orally swapping one another’s fecal matter while naked than they are about boys being raped or molested by other men.

The sooner we can talk about it, collectively, with greater comfort than we talk about decapitation or the N-Word, the sooner we'll reduce the number of victims and minimize the recidivism of predators.

Another reason this story moves me is because I’ve also been the coward.

My first semester in college, I was in my dorm the final night of exams. Because I had to bum a ride from someone else headed back to Tennessee, I was there on a night when at least 90% of campus had gone home, and what remained was a random skeleton crew of students and adults. Four of us from my dorm ended up playing some drinking game and getting shitfaced in one girl’s room, and then I walked the girl I liked -- don’t worry, she was just a friend -- back to her room. On the way back down to my own room, some 20 minutes later, I walked past the room where we’d been playing and drinking, so I was going to poke my head in and say goodnight, but the door was locked.

I knocked. Nothing. I put my ear to the door and heard low mumbling.

The two were making out, and they clearly hadn’t even heard me knock. As I began to walk away, I heard her say something about how they had to stop, how it she couldn’t do this. (She had been dating one guy since she’d been a sophomore in high school, and we all knew it.)

I walked back inside the suite and put my ear against the door. You’d be amazed how thin those doors were. Her voice was scared, yet it also sounded like they were still making out, like she was OK with kissing him, but just not OK that he wanted more.

I felt like such a voyeur. Would they think I had been out here the whole time? Had anything really wrong happened yet? How long could I wait until it was really a serious problem? OhGodOhGodOhGod whatamIsupposedtodo???

It was a cowardly moment for me. No way around it. My "I've been molested" defense felt thin and still does. All my comic book worship and superhero study couldn’t excuse me from sitting out there in the hallway, frozen and horrified. To this day, I still refuse to believe my inaction was a crime. Cowardly, pathetic, perhaps even inexcusable. But criminal?

I can tell you things worked out. I can tell you they stopped, and he didn't rape her. I can tell you I had two future events in college that allowed me to make things right, karmically, to prove I'd learned my lesson. I can tell you lots of stuff, but in that moment, I was frozen, and useless, and utterly uncertain about everything. Most days, I think that feeling of fearful pathetic paralysis was even worse than being the victim. It's certainly haunted me more over time.

To Mike McQueary: I’m sorry fate put you in that spot. I’m sorry you didn’t act, but I won’t judge you. I believe you sincerely tried to do the right thing, even if we can all look back and proclaim it “wasn’t enough.”

To everyone who thinks this is about football or power, I think you haven’t been paying attention. This is about a culture afraid to acknowledge predators, afraid of stirring up uncomfortable situations. It’s about a 28-year-old at the bottom of the totem pole in a country where, I’m sorry, the police would probably have done nothing once he reported it.

Let’s pretend he reports it. You think it’s some magic open-and-shut case, where the police arrest the former assistant coach, the leader of a popular non-profit group, where they lock his ass away forever based on one witness and a simple trial? I hope you’re all that naive as you pass judgment.

He could have reported it. The police could have investigated and arrested. They could have chosen not to press charges. McQueary could have lost his job for not going through the proper channels before making such a dangerous accusation. He would have been unhirable. The charges could have been dropped, and Sandusky could be right where he is at this very moment, just now facing justice for the same increasing and disgusting illness.

But it’s easier to not think. It’s easier to keep things simple, to throw that stone, to use words like “enabling” and “cowardly.”

It’s easier to tell ourselves, as we go to sleep as night, that we’re better people.

Sleep tight, better people. One day, your test will arrive, and I hope you have your Number Two pencil ready.

Me? I pray every night God is grading on one seriously generous curve.

1 comment:

Daisy said...

Another well said, moving post!