Wednesday, November 22, 2006
We'll be leaving tomorrow to spend Thanksgiving with our son and The World's Most Perfect Daughter-in-Law. Times have changed. Not long ago, they all came home here to us.
I miss those days, though they were not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination. We were never the Waltons. For one thing, our John-boy could never tolerate BOTH of his sisters at the same time. In their Sibling Universe, it was always two aligned against one. The only saving grace was the sides kept changing up… and allegiances varied from dinner to dessert. But it made me weary. Why couldn't we just concentrate on the holiday at hand? Why were College students debating who did not take whose friend to 8th grade homecoming? No matter what the original "offense"... why did the arguments always degrade into the same themes over and over?
My Mother was alive then... but she was no source of sympathy for me. When I'd complain to her about "The Tiresome Threesome"… she'd remind me she had a "Tiresome Threesome" of her own. Who could deny it? To this very day, my sisters and I seem to trot out old wounds and wield old war stories in the very same way. Our classic combat routine concerns... the Peter Rabbit book.
For the past 30 years, our middle sister has been searching for her Peter Rabbit book... the talisman of her childhood. Sometimes she thinks our oldest sister has it. Sometimes she thinks I do. Sometimes, she believes it has been passed through the nefarious actions of our late Mother to some undeserving grandchild. About 10 years ago, she told me in a phone conversation that she was no longer asking for the Peter Rabbit book... she was "demanding it." Lest you think this book is some rare first edition, worthy of all this family intrigue... my late Mother once wearily opined you could not get "fifty cents for it at a flea market." But we all know, the issue is not REALLY about the book.
It's about who my Father's favorite was, and who he took out fishing while the others stayed at home. It's about the daughter who was given Mother's teacups AND her treasured hope chest, and the one whose Christmas presents unfailingly disappointed her. It's about the girl Daddy said had no "sense of humor," and the girl my Mother thought was too loud. It's all the old hurts and slights and misunderstandings. It's about the things too painful to articulate, yet somehow too important to put aside. It's ALL that. It's not the "Peter Rabbit book." But, of course, my sister INSISTS it is... and, frankly, it's a whole lot easier for ALL of us to argue about that.
I think of this strange family dance around the details every time I read the comments on this blog and others lately. Like the Peter Rabbit book, we have "chosen" an acceptable topic... but the under-story is SO MUCH MORE! Are we even discussing Collin, Reade and Dave… and a specific rape allegation anymore? I think those three have been left in a mist of other issues long ago. Their names are bandied about, but we're not discussing them, or the charges leveled against them. Not by a long shot! It's frustrating. It's patently not fair.
We are supposed to be discussing the evidence… or lack thereof… the allegations that last Spring THESE THREE YOUNG MEN, gang raped the ACCUSER under specific circumstances. But, read the comments... we just can't seem to keep the discussion at that. Larger themes of Racism and Class Envy, Town and Gown Relations, Women's Issues... are all simmering underneath. The Rape Hoax is a cover story for a lot of folks, on all sides, to vent their rage at a lot of other things. For many people, these three boys… are just Springboards to what they really want to shout about! Collin, Reade and Dave... and their innocence, and the lack of evidence are hardly relevant anymore.
I'd like to make two suggestions...for when we gather again after the holiday.
First, when discussing the Lacrosse case, let's focus on discussing this case, okay? These three boys... Collin, Reade and Dave. Let's discuss the EVIDENCE, such as it is, or more importantly, is not. Let's discuss the law and procedure. Let's just discuss the FACTS. Not what you guess, or hope, or pray Nifong has. As we learn more, more may be added. But don't saddle these three with society ills, or your personal laments. Not now. Not fair.
Of course, I see the anger and the angst in many of these posts against the boys. Some of it is posted simply to bait the other side into counter-productive debate. These posters are the antithesis of what they purport to be. Theirs is a trap to be avoided, preferably ignored. Others are offensively personal, attacking Professor Anderson's family, or Professor Johnson's motives. They are beneath contempt and/or reply. Some, though, are painfully sincere. They should be acknowledged but not allowed to draw us off this case, this injustice, this Hoax right now!
Of course, we need to have these other discussions. All the pain in these comments proves that. But it is horrific to saddle these three boys with the burdens of social abuses or agendas… that came not from their own heart, mouth or hand. To do so discredits the discussion, and the integrity of whomever seeks to hijack the debate. It's tiresome and more than non-productive... it's demeaning to your respective cause.
That brings me to point two. The lack of civility in some of these comments ON BOTH SIDES is appalling. There are days when I imagine our moderator with his finger frozen to the delete button. We can't in good conscience excuse it on one side, and excoriate it on the other. Don't post ugliness and say you're promoting the innocence of these boys. We don't approve, and we will not abide it.
Our feelings of frustration, outrage and contempt for Nifong, the Hoax and its enablers is real and, in my opinion, justified. But there are understandable feelings by many people on the other side too. Their own feelings of frustration, and outrage and contempt. Each uniquely personal, yet specifically volatile. They're all talking about the Duke Lacrosse case… but like my sister's never ending quest for the purloined Peter Rabbit Book… they are really not talking about Collin, Reade or Dave at all. Some are talking about THEIR children railroaded by out-of-control prosecutors, and yet no one cared. Others are talking about themselves, and the opportunities they feel they don't have and never will. Some are talking about racial slurs, or open disrespect or demeaning moments… and arrogance, and apathy and all sorts of issues that hurt and haunt them to this day. They're talking about all that. We need to listen. We need to learn. We need to care.
But, in regard to this case, we need to focus on one night last Spring. And Collin, Reade and Dave.
Let's demand focus and civility.
To all of you, friend and "foe." I wish a blessed Thanksgiving… one that will supplant old hurts and sustain new faith that understanding each other is still possible... and justice still unites us, and deception cannot divide us for long.