I have a confession to make.
When I read the article about Brock Turner raping that young lady, my first though was not, “Oh my God, what a monster. That poor girl. That judge should be locked up, too.”
My first thought was, “Oh my God. How did this happen? He is someone’s kid. How did our society fail this kid so hard that he raped someone’s daughter behind a dumpster in the year 2015?”
I have a crazy built-in sensor that goes off when things are unbalanced, and everything I’ve read about this whole situation is woefully unbalanced. The judge’s response, the boy’s parents’ response, the media’s response, our shared response. There are two very polarized camps in this situation – those who say he should be burned at the stake and those who say that girl was asking for it. But guess what: there is a third thread in there that I had no choice but to follow down through the tunnels of my heart until I got to the bottom of why.
Was what that he did awful? Without question.
Did he know better? Yep.
Should he be held totally accountable for his actions? Uhuh.
Was the young woman the victim of something horrible that I would want to kill with my bare hands anyone who did the same to my daughter? You can bet your ass on it.
But there is something deeper happening in our culture that we need to address.
You guys, we need to stop raising and praising assholes. This is a collective “we” statement - it takes an entire society to raise and praise assholes, and we need to knock it off. We all had an indirect hand in raising a kid who raped somebody. I’m sorry, but we did. We are all connected.
I have nephews; sweet, darling, innocent, ornery nephews that I have carved out a special little corner of my heart for. I can’t help but think that Brock is probably somebody's nephew. And if he’s not a nephew, he is still a grandson and a son to people who love him, I’m guessing no less than you and I love our own. He is an important part of his family's tapestry. The fact that the judge went easy on him - another example of our failed judicial system - is just the continuation of an attitude that has been shaping that kid’s life for a very long time. His father's statement about "20 minutes of action" is a pretty clear indication that personal accountability was not a "thing" in their house. Instead, value was placed elsewhere, like how fast the kid could swim.
But, you guys, this is an epidemic in our country. We are placing value in the wrong things. We are placing adult pressures on our kids well before they should shoulder them. I am doing it and you are doing it, and we need to own up to it.
Let's talk about Kobe Bryant for a minute. Yeah, remember the man who allegedly raped a woman several years back? Remember that? Yeah, we just celebrated the end of his NBA career like nobody's business. I didn’t see any Facebook posts circulating with the words RAPIST across the bottom of his photo. Nah, we forgot about it, ‘cause we are focused on the wrong things.
But I'm not just going to throw Kobe under the bus. I've gotta’ stay gender neutral here. Let's talk about Hope Solo. She is violent and her attitude is terrible, and yet she’s still appearing on glossy magazine covers and out there preparing for the summer Olympics. She is representing OUR COUNTRY in the Olympics. She is representing you and she is representing me. Let that sink in.
Why? Because we place value in "success" over character. It’s not as soothing to our egos to tell our friends stories about our kids being kind humans as it is to talk about their accolades and sports rankings.
Look at college athletics. The financial and social structures of our University system are largely built around athletes. The stadiums, the dorms, the food, the status. These kids are bowed down to and placed above everyone else, because they bring in the money. Guess who's money?
But this isn’t just a problem in the world of athletes or musicians or other famous, “successful” people. That may be where we are seeing the result of it, thanks to the media, but it’s not the place where it begins.
This is a WE problem. It begins in our homes.
I am guilty of it, myself. I am raising an athlete and it’s a big part of our lives.
"She works so hard taking care of her horses. Don't worry so much about her messy room," I tell my husband, even though she was asked time and time again. “She works hard for her grades. Give her a break.”
Total insanity. I admit it. Yes, we should allow our kids to be kids – but part of childhood is learning that magical thing called accountability. It’s about learning empathy. It’s about learning self-compassion and self-control.
We are teaching our kids that athletes and the Kardashians, and those we deem “successful” are above the law - judicially, ethically and spiritually. As long as you’re making money, as long as you’re “successful,” we will let things slide.
Guess what was at the bottom of Brock’s slide? Rape. For some it’s drugs or domestic violence or robbery or money laundering or murder. For others, it’s rape.
We are teaching our kids how to not feel. "Just push through" is our mantra.
“Here, take this pill so you can concentrate better for that final."
"You just have to get through one more (fill in the blank)."
We are teaching our kids to betray their built in self-preservation mechanisms. We are teaching our kids that what matters most is "success." How about valuing mental, emotional and physical health just a smidge more?
We are literally stripping our kids of empathy.
"Why do you want that video game? It's so violent." As we shove money across the counter. We are allowing our impressionable, soft-hearted young children to play games in which they murder someone. Why? Because all the kids are doin’ it. I bet ya’ if we dig we will find out that Brock played violent video games. I'd bet my grandmother’s wedding ring on it.
We're getting better at responding from the top-down. Companies are dropping sponsorship of athletes who don't toe the line. But we need to do a better job from the bottom-up by paying attention to what we place value on in our lives. We need to hold our kids -- each other's kids -- accountable. We are so politically correct, so "It's not my business." Well, it's easier to make it your business when you rat out who egged your neighbor's house than it will be when they rape someone.
We need to pay attention to what we say and what we do. At the end of this school year, let’s all make a pact to praise our kids for the things that matter. Let’s not encourage better grades or more goals next year. Let’s encourage more meaningful friendships, more opportunities to serve our communities – and not because it looks good on college applications. Let’s encourage giving for the sake of experiencing what it means to give with absolutely no strings or expectations attached. Most importantly, let us lead by example.