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attrib. Sluts for ObamaOver the last twenty four hours I have followed the revelations emerging from Steubenville, Ohio with an increasing sense of dismay. Shock that such a thing could happen and a growing sense of foreboding that, not only can it happen but it is almost inevitable.

Despite reading the reports with a healthy amount of skepticism, it is clear that something deeply disturbing happened in Steubenville last August. I do not accept, at face value, statements made on the internet, either in posts on blogs, Facebook, Twitter or even in media reports. Too many are the result of partial reporting or Chinese whispers yet the weight of accumulating evidence suggests something rotten, even if the conclusions are yet to be tested.

It would be nice to have the luxury of simply dismissing this case as a one-off, an aberration. Justice will have it's day in court, we will shake our heads sadly, and move on. That would be nice.

However, we do not really have that luxury if we posses even a shred, an ounce, the tiniest scintilla of integrity; because this is not the first, will not be the last, and is simply a tawdry part of a corrupt pattern of behaviour where this time they were caught at it.

We may have been able to dismiss this incident had Penn State not happened. The Penn State scandal peeled the scab off a side of American society that we have closed our eyes to for far too long. Anyone associated with a High School has known, or suspected, for years that all is not well, and Penn State, and now Steubenville are demonstrating just how far we are fallen.

What shocked me about Penn State was not the crime, distressing as that was. Pedophiles gravitate to positions where they can gain access to children, that has been known for a long time and the fact that we will root one out occasionally, despite our best defenses, is not surprising. No, what shocked me was both the cover-up attempts, and the protests from some of the student body, their fit of pique at potentially losing their football apparently trumping their compassion for the victims.

It seems that we are in grave danger, if we have not done so already, of allowing two dangerous and corrupting influences to inform our next generation of adults. The double blows of a warped moral compass, evidenced by the student protests, and the notion that money and power are not to be challenged or confronted. Money and power are to be worshiped and revered, and if that means kids have to be brutalised, girls blamed for their own rapes .... well that sucks but .... football.

During one of my early trips to the US, and shortly before I moved here permanently I went to a High School football game. It was in a small Oklahoma town mot dissimilar to Steubenville, Ohio, but with a rather less successful program. I blogged about it at the time, and later regurgitated that blog post into a little-noticed Daily Kos Diary.

The whole event was an eye-opener for me. I come from a land where sport is akin to a religion too. We play football with a different shaped ball, but make no mistake, it is equally tribal and fiercely supported. We call our version "the beautiful game", and having seen both, I still think that.

My surprise stemmed from the fact that this was a school game. In my high school, indeed in all UK high schools, the school games are on open, wind and rain swept fields attended only by a few Dads and the occasional passer-by walking the dog. It was ever thus and although that might seem strange to you, it is normal to me. Sport in school is extensive, the competition fierce and the skill levels can be high. Despite that it remains a strictly amateur event that is no more important than the chess club, and rather less well attended than the school play. There is no money, no boosters, and no local TV personalities arriving in helicopters. If you want a hot drink at a game ... well a vacuum flask is your friend.

Imagine my surprise on attending an event more reminiscent of a local professional team than a school, with a stadium, an entry fee, concession stands and even a marching band. Where I come from you don't get marching bands even at professional stadia; you get Bill, the eighty-year-old announcer who has been playing the same scratched records, over the same appalling PA system, since before the war.

I have to admit that there are aspects of school sports here that I think the UK could learn a lot from. There is also an involvement of the local community in the schools that I deeply admire and respect for its positive attributes, yet I am also coming to realise that there are also dangers in this system that are being evidenced in Steubenville, and Penn State. Elsewhere too, I have no doubts.

The risks associated are two-fold. When professionals play sport and receive the adulation and plaudits that come from success, it is adults we are dealing with and even then they tend to fall from grace more frequently than we would like. We suggest that they should behave more positively, yet on a major level we are gifted with O J Simpson and Michael Vick and many others who, to a greater or lesser degree, behave in a manner that suggests that they should not be role-models for any of our kids.

What do we think is likely to happen when we raise teenagers to a similar status in their local communities? Not only in giving credit for a job well done, but also raising them in an environment that doesn't allow them to fail. A school that excuses or ignores the fact that a student should be academically ineligible to play, but we are in the post season and we need our star running back. When teachers are never actually told to give the failing student a passing grade, but the entire faculty understands that the whole town will blame them if they fail the kid and the team loses.

Do they think that the students don't know this is done? Have our values become so distorted that the message we send to our kids is secondary to the result of a football game? Is that where we are, and happy to be? I can tell you what happens if you go down that road.

That path ends up with the team members bragging about a rape on video. Safe and secure in the knowledge that the Sheriff, the Prosecutor, the Coach and every other adult and authority figure in their lives will shield them, and provide immunity for their actions regardless of the gravity of the crime.

And the victim of a grotesquely violent crime?

Well she was a slut. She had it coming. She asked for it. Did you see those blue shorts she was wearing? The girl was practically naked anyway. Parading it in front of healthy young men full of testosterone and beer, and certain that they were, like our banks, too big to fail.

Those boys may or may not have committed a violent crime. That is a matter for the investigators and the courts and I will not pre-judge it here. Yet what I saw on those videos was shocking. I saw young men with no concept of moral or decent behaviour. I saw boys who I would warn my daughter about, because they displayed attitudes that we should find abhorrent. I saw young men who really should not be allowed anywhere near a high school, let alone be lauded as the stars of the football team and yet they do not bear the full burden of the blame or the responsibility.

They have to share that with the Sheriff. They share it also with the School, it's administrators and the coaching staff. They share it with the other adults in the town seeking to diminish a rape, and they share it with their parents. The whole rotten system has let those boys down, and deserted the victim in a manner that can only be described as shameful.

If you think that this is not happening in the school your child attends ... Well you might want to check that because I am not so trusting anymore, and I am sad about that.

In a country obsessed with "stranger danger", where we are very keen to teach our children of the sanctity of their bodies. Where we are so righteous about the exposing of "perverts", to the point where we create public lists that they are forever shamed and hounded. This America, where pedophiles are reviled and shunned ... unless they are involved in sport because then they represent the American Dream, and the corrupt dollars that support it.

Then we elevate those same child abusers and rapists onto a pedestal so high that to confront their behaviour is unthinkable. It must be covered up, diminished, maybe the victim blamed. To do any other might have the unpalatable consequence of destroying the entire artificial and unhealthy society we are building. A society where money and power are not to be challenged. Where the order we create is the path of the righteous, and the just. Where compassion is weakness and real Americans carry guns and Bibles, unable to understand the dangers of the former, and so uncritical that they do not understand the latter.


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Comment Preferences

  •  What I saw was a huge failure by ADULTS (5+ / 0-)

    I saw a bunch of kids who failed to receive adequate supervision, and the right lessons from ADULTS.   All of these kids were let down by the adults who should have protected them.  

    There was a criminal lack of supervision and failure to prevent these kids from gaining access to alcohol -- a crime in itself.    All of these kids will pay the price, for the rest of their lives, for the failures of adults who should have nurtured them and protected them.  

    Where are the adults, and what is going to happen to THEM?

  •  Just think (10+ / 0-)

    It's boys and girls this age that we arm with assault rifles and send over the Iraq, and then wring our hands, and wonder how Abu Ghraib could ever happen.

  •  Boys behaving in the absence (8+ / 0-)

    of any kind of good behavior among those who are supposed to be helping them develop into socially acceptable people. "It takes a village....", and the village in this case is football crazed.

    I blame the boys first, and the rest of the village in the next millisecond.

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 08:29:55 AM PST

    •  Clearly the boys are responsible (7+ / 0-)

      for their own behaiour.

      Quite why they behaved that way is a real problem

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 08:41:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have a bit of personal insight on this kind of (8+ / 0-)


        When I was in 6th grade, in 1960 or so, there was a group of kids who would go on to be football stars and their hangers-on (including cheerleaders, for one thing). They were already being groomed for their new status by parents and at least one teacher. At one point I encountered some of that group of kids out in the woods near the school one day (on a Saturday, I think) and was put through some kind of physical and sexual harassment that I only remember some details of at this point.  During that school year I and several others not in the privileged class were bullied and humiliated in class by the proto football star and the teacher I mentioned above. To the delight of the proto cheerleaders.

        They did go on to be high school heroes, and I and others just went on with our lives since there was no sensitivity about stuff like that back then. I have mostly forgotten about it but tend to remember details when stories like this surface.

        It's been going on for a long time, but now social media is helping to shed a little light on it, and that's good.

        Moderation in most things.

        by billmosby on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 09:16:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The videos are new. (9+ / 0-)

    The elevation to the status that allows this behavior is not. Whether status is due to athletic prowess or economic/social standing, we've always allowed the elite to get away with murder.

    I get to choose, and I choose love.

    by Melanie in IA on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 08:46:59 AM PST

  •  What this points to is systemic moral rot & (8+ / 0-)

    corruption in Steubenville and the county.

    The only way to get to the bottom of this is to call in the FBI and the Justice Department to thoroughly investigate all aspects of this.

    When the rape victim was transported back to West Virginia a state line was crossed.This give the Federal government the opportunity to investigate and conduct an independent investigation which will prosecute regardless of what toes it will step on.

    If they investigate and find nothing to substantiate the allegations, fine. At least then it would put to rest the fears of the people of Steubenville that their civil and political system is corrupt.

    •  Good point (3+ / 0-)

      I hadn't realised a State Line was crossed.

      For the victim, I would like to see justice.

      For the rest of us I don't think it's a law-enforcement issue.

      I think we need a thorough public inquiry that can investigate not just what happened, but why it was allowed to happen.

      Who covered up what, and the roles played by everyone.

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 09:01:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I also think that the FBI could come in (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      because of this crossing of a state line.  I wonder if there is any way to petition or apply pressure to get something like this to occur?  

      It would be the most transparent way to deal with this.

      It gets on my nerves, and you know how I am about my nerves...

      by ciganka on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 02:00:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I went to high school in Canada (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, billmosby, Catte Nappe

    being on a sports team had about as much social relevance as being on the band, ie not much. (It probably helps that the sport which is national religion there, hockey, isn't played at the high school level.) This culture where the high school football team is the most important institution in town seems really strange to me.

    I agree with the skepticism regarding Internet statements from teenagers. For one thing, no matter how disturbing, this sort of stuff isn't legal evidence of anything if it doesn't actually depict criminal activity. "Sounding like a total asshole on Facebook or Twitter" is not a crime. Such statements are unlikely to be admitted as evidence in court. The broader social problem needs to be the focus, not their relevance to this particular horrid case.

    Visit Lacking All Conviction, your patch of grey on those too-sunny days.

    by eataTREE on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 09:02:02 AM PST

  •  Been about 6 years since (5+ / 0-)

    I was in high school. Girls' golf team captain here. Low 80's high 70's shooter. Nothing pro, just average... I think.

    Football team members always got away with lots of stuff. I noticed they received a lot more lenience for academic stuff when I was told to manage my time more wisely.

    So for them, raping someone and getting away with it... even with all the 'trophies' they have... for some reason does not surprise me. It does make me very, very sad.

    Their hearts are poisoned because of the way they are treated... and then they have a different perspective of responsibility than I do.

    Why hello there reality, how are you doing?

    by Future Gazer on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 09:27:05 AM PST

  •  I love my son (8+ / 0-)

    He's always had some good insights about things. At school, he was a good student, and the sport he was in was exciting, but team members were not elevated to heroes.

    Once, when we were talking about dating, he said he didn't want to "date," he wanted a "relationship." He also said that he could tell when girls had parents who didn't really figure very much in their lives; they were pretty much on their own.

    When somebody suggested he check out some girl who was reportedly "easy," he told me that yes, he could probably have sex with her, but "I don't want to be that guy."

    I can't claim all credit for his values, but he was a thoughtful, sensitive boy when he was born, and has remained so. My husband and I have tried to model decency, but we never had to do very much correcting of bad behavior.

    I'd like to believe there were at least some other students who saw this behavior and were disgusted by it. But the pride a small town takes in high school sports victories often takes priority over the demeaning treatment those same sport heroes display to less famous kids.

    •  I'm pretty sure there were plenty (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wenchacha, ciganka

      and it disturbs me that they can't speak out:

      I'd like to believe there were at least some other students who saw this behavior and were disgusted by it. But the pride a small town takes in high school sports victories often takes priority over the demeaning treatment those same sport heroes display to less famous kids.

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 10:19:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I was grateful my son's "sport" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg, wenchacha, FishOutofWater

      was jazz band. They consistently placed in the tops of the state (yes, Iowa has state-level jazz competitions.) But the school's math teams and debate teams and show choir and science bowl teams and .... also placed well, statewide and even nationally. The broad appreciation for academics and other extracurricular activities, not exclusively athletics, I think helps turn out students who are more well-rounded and have a better perspective on themselves and the world.

      Congrats to you for helping raise a thoughtful young man.

      I get to choose, and I choose love.

      by Melanie in IA on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 11:08:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Of course, some people are above the law (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Melanie in IA, twigg, FishOutofWater

    When Dick Cheney shot a man in the face, and the cops came to his door to investigate, he refused to speak to them and told them to come back tomorrow.   There never was a blood alcohol test.  

    I don't have to guess what would happen if some in a lower income bracket, a minority, perhaps, were to try this.    What would it be like if cops would just go away when you told them to?   I'll never know, and neither will you.   This only works for the the privileged class.

    Need I say more about whether attitudes about being "above the law" come from?  It comes right from the top.

  •  Cigarettes are bad for your health (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And so is American rules football. They both suck.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 07:37:26 PM PST

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