Monday, September 11, 2006

The Sounds of Silence

Two years ago I got involved with an out-of-town group that put together "goodie boxes" to send to our troops in the Middle East. I enthusiastically agreed to give it a try here in my hometown. Soon, to the chagrin of those most often in my company, I was carrying my soapbox with me wherever I went. No matter WHAT one's feelings on the war, I would intone, you can donate SOMETHING to support the troops.

Happily, a lot of people and businesses did contribute to the cause. Soon our sunroom had the look of an overstocked Seven-Eleven. I had no help with the actual packing or mailing, so my little "Operation Support The Troops" was not terribly efficient. One day, my husband, after tripping over a carton of snack cakes, opined that it appeared I was much more successful at "receiving" than "shipping." But I continued on, always reminding my family that this minor inconvenience was trivial. It was important we supported the troops. I was quite caught up with my mission, and my role as Morality Czarina.

In March of that year my son called. "Mom", he said brightly, "I know you believe in supporting the troops. Well, there's a real need for someone with my "job description" over there.. . So-o-o, I volunteered to go."


I really only wanted to send the snack cakes.
But my son saw the role of "support" in a far finer sense than I.

I wish I could tell you my first response to this announcement was a noble one, a courageous one, and an unselfish one. It was not. If the word “hypocrite” comes here to mind, you're heading down the right road.

But …by the next day, I realized this was one of those defining moments we mostly hate.... but have to face a few times in life. I thought about the way I remembered the words from that musical "Hair" long ago..."

How can people be so heartless?
It's easy to be hard. Easy to say no.
Especially people who say they care about strangers,
Care about evil and social injustice.
Do they only care about the "feeling proud?"

Was that me? Did I really care...or "care about feeling proud?" Was I only in this "support" deal as long it didn't ask too much of me? And what did I owe to my son for my first and flawed response?

In the end, I did what most of you would do. I pulled up from deep inside all the reserves I had… drew on every lesson... my Mother's strength, my Dad's example… my husband's integrity. I called The Son and proffered my mea culpa. My first response was wrong, my first words were wrong. I told the Son I was proud of him and he can go with my blessing. I returned to the packing of snack cakes with a new and personal zeal.

That's what I don't understand about the Duke Lacrosse case, or some of the supporting participants. I can understand a bad start. I've got a lifetime collection of them. I can't understand the soulless, spineless follow-ups (or lack there-of). As you well know, there are people who inserted themselves in this case, who took hard and vociferous stands early on. People who called press conferences, or offered nightly pronouncements on the case, or ran large public ads… people who need to step up, follow up and correct the record NOW.

City Manager Patrick Baker is one that comes to mind. When the Duke report was released, he gave an interview to hotly denounce the idea that the accuser had told multiple versions of the Hoax. He used the power of his position to humiliate the Duke officer quoted in that report. However, since court documents have been released showing there were indeed several "stories", Mr. Baker has slunk from both view and comment. He told the public he was personally monitoring the case. Well, Mr. Baker, how about an update? We await your next interview to correct the record.

Of course, you recall Nancy Grace and her nightly chats about the "Lacrosse case" around the cauldron. Nancy is one of the "TV Triplets- Separated at Birth"...along with “sisters” Wendy Murphy and Georgia Goslee. All three put out inflammatory and erroneous information on this case for months. But as new details emerged and the error of their ways and words grew increasingly evident, the Duke Hoax became a "non grata." topic on their nightly gab fests. Have they issued one correction, restated one mistaken "fact" for the record? If so, I haven't heard of it. Though in interest of fairness, I must disclose I no longer watch anything that involves any of them. Should they ever levitate into the air and reveal the secrets of the meaning of life, one of you will have to call me...I will not be watching.

Then, there is that "esteemed" group ...the so-called Group of 88. In a shameful rush to judgment, they scourged the three boys and the Lacrosse team in general before Gottlieb had even made a house call. Usually apoplectic at "profiling", they "profiled" an entire team. They rushed to support an "accuser" they knew little about... but the little they knew, like to all people of bias, was enough to deserve their unqualified support. In their actions, they most resembled the "White Citizens' Council" conclave...meeting years ago in the Old South. Their agendas, once activated, fit nicely into their chosen overview of this case. So, as in days of yore, that was all they needed to move forward. The treatment of these boys by a few of these professors, who actually taught them or knew them personally, stands among the most offensive, heartless, hypocritical moments of this case. For these are supposedly scholars, folks of intellect and reason...role models even...trusted to teach our young at one of America's finest institutions of learning. These architects of young minds have exposed themselves as Big Time Agenda Bullies. And, again, not one of them has spoken a word to ameliorate their damage or articulate what should be their shame. As I've said, I understand a bad start to the story. But this shameful sequel is revealing the real underside of these people.

When I think of the Group of 88, or the Trial-by-TV-Triplets, or Patrick Baker, I think of the words of another old Simon and Garfunkel. There certainly were a lot of song-writer philosophers back in those days...who called us to personal introspection. We could use a few of them now.

"Fools that lie and do not know...Silence like a cancer grows. the sounds of Silence.”
By Joan Foster


gcparent said...


You have once again reminded us how difficult it is to be a parent and not be a hypocrite.

Regarding Baker, remember Abe Lincoln's words, "If you want to test a man's character, give him power". By now, we all know too well about Mr. Baker's character.

Anonymous said...

Done quite well.

Anonymous said...

Add to that list Houston Baker! Thanks Joan, another piece where I knew that author after just a few sentences.

Anonymous said...

Nice work, Joan.

The power of the honesty.


John in Carolina

Anonymous said...

You have a gift I can only dream of...

Great Job!