Steubenville

daterapeSome facts about the City of Steubenville, Ohio.

Population: 18,440 people (est. 2011) on an area 10.63 square miles in size.

Politics: Democratic. There are an estimated six Democrats for every Republican in Steubenville. There is also an “above average” rate of registered Independents.

Dean Martin, the famous singer, actor and comedian, grew up in Steubenville. So did Traci Lords, notable for making her first pornographic video at the age of 16.

All facts above courtesy of Wikipedia’s Steubenville page.

I was pleasantly surprised and gratified when the guilty verdicts came down in the Steubenville rape case. The convicted rapists got off easy, however, in light of the fact the judge used his discretionary powers to not have them tried as adults.

A google search for the phrase “Steubenville divided” turns up some disturbing results. Essentially some folks in Steubenville defended the accused, two members of the high school football team both aged 16, for being “unfairly and too quickly accused” in the words of a CNN reporter.

What the hell is there to be divided about? Even the parents of those convicted should have been shocked enough into doing the right thing. They should have said, yes, they’re our sons, and we love them, but they must be held accountable for what they have done. We live in a society. Sadly there is an intense shortage of that sort of thing going around these days.

I believe the behavior itself is indefensible and highlights a shocking breakdown of judgement, morals and values taking place with some in our society. The fact that some would choose, for almost any conceivable reason, to defend the behavior of that night and the egregious vile and callous attitudes on display is saddening.

Meanwhile, following the convictions, more arrests have been made, this time involving online threats by minor females against the victim. This sort of thing really tears me up. Why not blame those responsible for their own actions? That’s the one thing we can never allow.

Sixteen-year-old children, under the effects of alcohol, openly discussed rape, talking about how the victim deserved to be “peed on,” recorded and posted video of the victim to YouTube, took pictures with cell phones and tweeted. Participants also joked that the theme of the evening should be the song “Rape Me” by Nirvana, a song which Kurt Cobain publicly stated, after he was tired of being asked about it so many times, was meant to be “life-affirming” and  “anti-rape.”

When I took my handgun safety course required in my state to obtain a concealed carry weapon permit, I was very impressed with my instructor. He dispensed a lot of wisdom in a short period of time and not all of it about guns. One of the points he hammered home is that when you choose to carry a gun, you give up the right to lose control of your wits. Among other things, inebriation means the loss of ability to defend yourself. Getting drunk, high or wasted is basically a conscious choice to put your safety and welfare in the hands of others. Why would anyone ever willingly choose to do that?

Who is failing here? Parents? The public school system? Religion and churches? How do you break through to young people and make them take notice of the tools and decision-making abilities that will really serve to protect them when the chips are down? Sadly, I don’t think there are any easy answers. Peer pressure and conformity are intense factors on our young people who don’t quite have brains developed well enough to sufficiently cope. The fact that even some adults can defend the indefensible is like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.

What of personal responsibility and accountability in our society? What of all the other teens who witnessed the raping take place that night and knew what was going on yet did nothing about it? Where did the alcohol come from? What other adults had knowledge yet refused to come forward? As in 99.9% of human existence and the spectrum of behavior, the full measure of justice deserved will never be dispensed.

Will we half-step and half-measure ourselves into complete and utter oblivion?

9 responses

  1. I don’t know when it happened but too many parents today are scared of, and by, their children. It’s all about appeasing the child and letting shit slide to avoid confrontation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across families where the children rule and the parents don’t say anything…they just sign them up for yet another sport or hobby or class. Over-scheduling your children’s time so they don’t have the time to be with you has a lot to do with what’s wrong. There is a difference between helping your children make their own decisions by being actively involved in the process, and absolving yourself of any responsibility just because it’s easier to let them have their own way. Your children should always be just a little bit scared of you…not the other way around. You’re the parent. You’re supposed to be in charge.

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    1. I think for a lot of people parenting has become akin to a gym membership. It’s something you sign up for with the best of intentions but then life gets in the way and you never go. Even though you stop going you still make those payments out of guilt. And, funny thing, the lack of effort doesn’t produce the outcome desired.

      Very wise words, my friend.

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  2. I have been appalled at how much of this case has been about what it MEANS — for schools, and parents, and churches, and communities as opposed to what was DONE. It’s like we as a society wanted to sort of forget the crime and get onto the metaphysical navel-gazing. Oh, the crime? It’s just a plot-point to get things started.

    The Beloved asked me what I would do as a parent. I said I would want them tried and held responsible for their actions, but I’d work like hell to get them tried as minors.

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    1. I was literally floored that there were somehow two sides to this issue. I know we’re a debate-driven opinionated culture, but come on! Who looks at this case and says, “Yeah, I can play devil’s advocate.” I can understand blinded parents, they’re just being selfish, but what about other folks who came to their defense?

      Perhaps most shocking of all is the utter breakdown of responsibility, empathy, and caring. If only a single human being had stepped up and taken some form of action that night. But none did. Not a one. “All it takes is a single point of light?” “Evil flourishes when good men do nothing?” Not exactly a shining hour for the good people of Steubenville and humans in general.

      It took the victim’s mother to finally do something.

      Less and less I see the logic of trying criminals as minors. If you’re responsible enough to make the choice you should be responsible enough to face the consequences.

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      1. It’s a great point about the complicit behavior/negligence of all those around them, because there are a lot of people in those videos doing nothing. I can’t think of how depressed I’d be if my kid saw something so blatantly blatantly wrong being done and did nothing.

        The tried-as-minors thing is a tough one, because there’s a good deal of brain research that shows that teens do not have a fully-formed reason center (compared to an adult). But that’s a VERY slippery slope argument of “my biology made me do it, not me” which I’m not sure that we want to open up as society.

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  3. In due time, someone will spill the beans on who, what, where and when. The full story will come out. And I’m sure some parents will be brought up on charges. But I agree with Blogdramedy. These progressive parents let their children do what they want, “we don’t yell at our house” and “he goes to bed when he’s ready”. Children need limits. They have to know what is wrong and what is right, to respect his parents, and know that you just can’t do what you want. It doesn’t help that you can’t lay a hand on child because they know they can run to any other grown up and yell “abuse”. That keeps alot of parents at bay from properly disciplining their kids. Hence what Blogdramedy stated “they’re scared of, and by, their children”.

    I’m not sure what has to been done. There’s always that fine line dividing public rights of kids and the rights of the victims. There’s always going to be those parent groups that will protest anything and everything. You can’t win.
    Great post Tom!

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    1. Thanks! And I agree. Blogdramedy nailed it. We’re very lucky she graced us with her presence. And thanks for your thoughts, too!

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  4. Sadly, I don’t think there’s a short answer to whose fault it is.
    Seems more like a societal breakdown…

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    1. It truly boggles my mind the human impulsiveness on display that night. There was absolutely no sense of shame. Perhaps worse than the sheer crassness of it all is that I imagine some involved may have actually had some remote sense of scruples but allowed that to be pushed aside in the name of conformity. It takes courage to oppose evil.

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