That’s it. Glee just put me over the edge. These past 24 hours have given me enough reason to pack my children up and move to the Himalayas until they’re 21.
Hideous, horrible details keep falling out of the awful mess that is the Sandusky/Penn State scandal. I’m not going to recap them all, because anyone who has a news channel app on his smartphone, or listens to ESPN radio, or lives where we do, where there’s a Nittany Lion sticker on every other car, knows the details as soon as they hit the wire. But the piece that actually has brought tears to my eyes is the growing number of people who learned of or knew what was (yes, allegedly, but c’mon) happening to these little boys and didn’t do anything about it. No one stopped an instance of abuse when he saw it happening. No one called the police. There is a rage that fills my heart that feels an awful lot like hurt and pity.
Children trusted adults, and were failed by coaches and university administrators.
A local elementary school teacher who plead guilty to 13 counts of sexual abuse of children after child porn was discovered on his computer was only given probation because, well, he seemed repentant. No jail time. He did a little counseling, and now he’s free to go about his business, with the exception of that pesky Megan’s Law registration.
Children were entrusted to adults, and were failed by a teacher and a judge.
And then there’s that ridiculous Glee, which I keep vowing not to watch, but do. Last night’s episode–“The First Time”–revolved around the story line of three of the characters losing their virginity. It was this big celebration of the consummation of these teenaged relationships–two relationships, by the way, where it’s acknowledged that the characters will be breaking up once they graduate from high school–complete with soft focus, candlelight, and symbolically folded hands. The nature of the sexual orientation of these couples is irrelevant (anyone who knows me knows how I feel, anyway), so please don’t misinterpret what I mean. What made me want to throw my slice of apple pie at the flat screen was Tina’s big speech about her first time with her boyfriend. On and on she goes, with a sappy smile on her face, about how it was love and they’d discussed it lots beforehand, so they knew what they were getting into, and even though she knows they won’t be together forever she’ll always look back at it as a perfect, magical night. Let me say right here that if I ever meet Ryan Murphy, I may punch him in the face for that speech. Seriously, that’s how teen sex goes down? What is this, Tori Spelling’s infamous “losing it” scene on 90210? As if teenagers don’t feel enough pressure from the loudmouthed kids in their schools, and from the music they listen to, and TV in general, and Rhianna’s “Love in a Hopeless Place” video, now there’s a whole episode dressing up teen intimacy as just a milestone they’re expected–expected, like sex is the PSATs, or senior portraits–to take in high school? How dare we put that kind of expectation on kids. They are children. Do you remember how impressionable you were as a kid? I ran around the house singing “Like a Virgin” when I was nine just as much as I did “Tomorrow” from Annie. This is not an advocation for censorship–oh, dear golly, no–but going for the cheap controversy rather than writing something original is just lazy and irresponsible.
Children entertained by adults, failed by entertainers.
This has absolutely nothing to do with faith, or religion, or anything like that. This has to do with an absolutely selfish society that doesn’t think we need to toe any sort of moral line. Yes, I’m generalizing. The voices of outrage over the Sandusky allegations are far louder than those that are still cheering for JoePa’s “honor” and “pride.” There is lots of good in this world. But when I think about all the time we spend with our heads in Facebook, and Twitter, or all of the pictures we take because we have to document every. single. part. of our lives for posterity. When I realize how much of my time is spent wishing I just had time to myself, or when I’m zoned out in front of a gossip mag because, frankly, I really love reading about Kate Middleton and her possible pregnancy. We live for ourselves. People don’t go to church because they can’t find a religion whose rules are lenient enough for them–and I say this as “good” Catholic who’s a quiet advocate for gay marriage, so throw your darts of hypocrisy at me if you’d like. I want to try to live a sustainable life, but my recycling bins have more stuff in them than a municipal trash truck, and I spend a crazy amount of money on local and organic foods that often end up in my wastebasket (because no, I haven’t gotten around to getting a compost bin, so again, throw your darts). My point is, we do not look outside of ourselves. We don’t. And with all these new advances to distract our attention, it’s gotten worse.
But something needs to change when we’re responsible for children. I say this to myself as much as I do to you. I snapped to attention when we had our girls. Why do you think I’m such a “good” Catholic? Why do you think my non-Catholic husband goes to mass with us every week? Because we have children, and we need to show them that there is good and holiness beyond what they can understand. Children are the reason I try–oh, try–to resolve arguments with my husband more quickly, why we cook dinners and eat together and take them to parks and read books. They are the reason why Saoirse thinks the words to Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” are “better run, better run, run from my (water) gun.” We cannot protect our children from everything awful in the world, but it is our duty to protect them where we can, and guide them where we should, and teach them when we must.
I was a teacher. When I’d hear of an incident of abuse, whether at the hands of a teacher, or coach–or yes, a clergy person–I could not wrap my head around it. They are children. Even when they’re cursing at you, and drinking too much beer on the weekends, or talking about metaphysics and the political situation in Greece, they are children. I don’t care how independent they seem, or how grown-up they dress, or how they talk. They look to us to lead the way, to show them what is good and right. And we need to do a better job, not only in raising our own children, but in looking out for the other ones as well.
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