I hate to interrupt the Christmas cheer, but there are two cases of absolute craziness run amok, mixed with lunacy, layered with insanity, shaken with just plain ridiculousness and it is the clear duty of normal people everywhere to take a minute, hear about these cases, shake your head in disgust, imagine your child in a similar situation, then yell, "STOP!!!!!!!"
In Boston, a first grader was being choked. He fought back and ended up punching his assailant in the groin. He--the one who was choked--is now being charged with sexual assault (read the article here. Note: I am going on the assumption that the story is accurate). If this charge holds, then when he turns 18, his name will be placed on the registry and for the rest of his life, he will be listed as a sex offender. Every time he applies for a job, an apartment--boom. There it is. He won't be able to attend his children's basketball games, concerts or parent teacher conferences.
This, dear readers, is madness. It is madness.
I don't advocate kicking anyone in the groin. But in self defense? That's a pretty common technique. It's also something that happens with amazing regularity any time boys tussle. So now it's a sex offense? If this is upheld--if this boy becomes a sex offender for this, then the designation ceases to have any real meaning.
Think of anytime you have ever had any kind of accidental or inadvertent contact with someone--you slipped and bumped into them, or something similar. My goodness, we could all be charged with this crime.
These administrators need to be called out on this. We have got to stand up and start making noise and letting people know that this is not the way a free, healthy society works.
Another story: a 4th grader in North Carolina called his teacher, "cute." The principal suspended him for sexual harassment. The school district investigated and found that the principal was wrong. Correctly so, in my opinion.
So he was fired. 44 years. Gone. Poof! Read the story here. Ok, he wasn't fired. He "resigned." But we know what that means.
He was wrong--gravely, seriously, ridiculously wrong in my judgement. He should have been written up, warned, and told to apologize.
But to be fired, just like that? I don't know--but I am going to guess, based on 25 years working schools, that the district had a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment. I'll bet you the principal has been to workshops over the years where he was told that it was his duty to report this and brook no excuses, but to be firm and so forth. I'll bet a 12 pack of Dr. Pepper on this one.
We have a system that is lurching out of control. Common sense has vanished and we rely on policies and procedures--all of which are drawn up in order to provide maximum cover from lawsuits. We don't talk about right and wrong and moral and immoral (except as labels for political policies we don't like). Instead, we have rules and regulations, which can be useful tools but terrible masters.
We have lost perspective, lost all sense of proportion. Little boys who fight should apologize, maybe be grounded, go to detention, stay after school. Not labelled as sex criminals--for the rest of their lives!
Boys who have crushes on their teacher and call them cute should be taught about propriety, good manners, and time and place. But that's not sexual harassment. If it is, then the term means nothing.
Principals who make miscalculations (acting out of deference to school policy and fears of lawsuits) should be reprimanded, corrected, and taught. Not fired.
I'm not saying that the initial actions were right. Groin kicking is bad. Calling a teacher cute is not perhaps prudent or appropriate (although, after teaching in NYC, I've been called far worse. I've actually been called far worse more recently by parents).
All of these stories have one thing in common: a small infraction that was dealt with in a grotesquely exaggerated, totally inappropriate way. We are using fire hoses to extinguish birthday candles.
I maintain that this is the other side of the coin with the Penn State scandal. When you move beyond right and wrong, and deal with policies and procedures and legalities only, you risk missing true evil while responding manically to very trivial, prosaic, minor problems.
Seriously. This has got to stop. And regular people have to do that. We have to push back against this kind of stuff. It might be your kid next. Or you.
All right, everyone. You want "authentic?" Boy are you going to get it today! Before you read any farther into my grumpy, petty, trivial rant, take a moment and think about something. Think about the fairly routine thing in your life you have to do that you just HATE. The thing that shouldn't bother you as badly as it does, the thing that everyone else does without complaint, or even likes, but you can't stand. The thing that, for whatever reason, you can't abide. The thing that ties your insides up in knots while marinating you in a steady stream of anxiety, resentment, and frustration. You hate this activity/task and you know that your hatred is not rational--but nevertheless, you hate it.
I know some people who feel this way about washing windows. Others who feel this way about babysitting, or cleaning their desk or doing the monthly sales report. The list is long and varied, I'm sure. Let me tell you about mine.
I hate to camp.
I don't dislike it. I hate it.
I hate it with a fervid, burning passion that is as great as the level of irrationality involved. I know I shouldn't hate it, but I do. I know it's silly to hate it so badly. I know it makes me into a sort of caricature. But I still hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it!!!!
The thing is, it's not that I hate bugs are am scared of bear attacks or something. There's no reason for my hatred of camping. It's just something that is a part of me--so there's not way of addressing it. I hate everything about camping--it's a perfect gestalt of misery in which the hellish whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. I hate camping like I love my wife--a zillion little things and experiences all add up to something I feel deeply in multiple dimensions: emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc.
So, the solution is simple, right? Don't go camping.
Hah! Good one. You must not know much about Mormons.
See, Catholics have seven sacraments (I think that's right--it's been a while since I took world history. If I'm off on that, I apologize). Mormons have sacraments too, except we call them ordinances and consider them essential for salvation. Baptism, the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, Marriage...oh, and Camping.
I'm not sure what it is about Mormons and camping. See, one of our foundational books of scripture, The Book of Mormon, tells about a family that was warned to flee Jerusalem in 600 B.C. right before it was destroyed. They went and wandered in the wilderness and the narrator of the record says, "My father dwelt in a tent." Here's the thing, though. It wasn't a good thing. They were fleeing for their lives and they almost starved and there was a lot of family problems. It wasn't like they went camping for fun. I also want to point out that "My father dwelt in a tent" and "Go and do thou likewise" are not in the same chapter, book or even volume!
And of course, our other foundational book of scripture is the Bible and that tells about the delightful 40 year camping trip Moses and the Israelites went on. Yes, it was better than slavery and death in Egypt, but it wasn't exactly fun.
More recently, the Church was founded in 1830. Shortly thereafter Mormons left up-state New York and gathered in Ohio where they were beaten and persecuted, so they fled to Missouri. Where they were beaten and persecuted and it was actually legal to kill them. So they fled to Illinois and built a city. After several years, they were hated and persecuted again and walked to Salt Lake, literally walked, camping along the way.
Here is my question. Did we, as a church, not get enough of camping on the march from New York to Ohio? Ok, still want more? Fine. How about the journey from Ohio to Missouri? No, more? Serious? Ok, how about from Missouri to Illinois? Ok, that was fairly short really, just a trip across a frozen river. How about we camp from Illinois to Utah?
I note that never in the history of the Church is there an account of any Church leader saying, "Hey folks, camping is a great thing! Forget about building another city. How about we just stay in these swell tents?" Nope. They built homes and cities. I don't think they liked camping.
My pioneer ancestors were forced to camp far more than they wanted to and they handled that sacrifice with grace and dignity. I hope, should some terrible combination of circumstances force me to do the same that I would have the same degree of fortitude and courage.
But, that doesn't mean I have to like doing it voluntarily. For fun. You see, never in the recorded history of God's dealing with his people has camping been a good thing. Nope. It's been a way to survive when bad things happen. That's why I feel it's better to honor our ancestors by NOT camping. It's what they would have done if those stupid mobs hadn't chased them out of their comfortable homes. Doing voluntarily what was forced on them just seems wrong.
Sadly, I am the only one in the Church who feels this way. And so, Mormons camp. Scout camp. Girl's camp. Handcart Treks. Father's and Son camps. Ward camps...it goes on and on.
In all seriousness, I love the Church. I believe the doctrines and teachings and so the cultural practice of camping is a small price to pay for the eternal blessings of being a member.
Here's the thing that really gets me, though. We all have to do things we don't like and I get that. So I'll be obedient, I'll be a good soldier and go camping. I'll be there. But I won't enjoy it. And for darned sure, I won't rhapsodize about how great it is and talk about camping in almost spiritual terms.
I hate listening to people talk about how they feel closer to God and so forth. You know what? That's fine. I believe you. More power to you. Camp all you want. But don't drag me along. I don't feel closer to God when I camp. In fact, I feel farther because I hate camping so much. I feel closer to God when I listen to beautiful music or read my scriptures. When I work in my garden or play with my children. I don't impose that on you though--I don't make you all come work in my garden or listen to the Vivaldi Gloria simply because I feel closer to the Lord.
This is probably what bugs me most. It's sort of lame that you get to do the things you like and would do anyway and get to say it makes you feel closer to the Lord and it builds character and so on. That's a crock. If you love camping, then it doesn't build character.
Let's just be honest. I love Mexican food. I'd eat it 24/7 if I could. If I were to say it builds character, I'd be lying. It doesn't. I just like it. Doing something you like is not character building--it's fun. That's why you do it.
So, tonight, I'm going camping. Someone told my sons about a father and son camp we're having. So, my choice was to be a terrible dad or go and do my duty and try to help them have a good time. I'm going. And I'm not going to complain or murmur. I'll put on a smile. But I'll be miserable. I won't feel closer to the Lord. But I guess it will build my character.
Saturday night, though, I'm getting Mexican food and listening to Vivaldi.
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