Sunday, October 5, 2014

"Unfiltered truth" has a way of evading truth

When I was growing up in Wisconsin, I did occasionally encounter kids who fit the description of “punks,” “thugs” and “bullies,” even in your typical white suburban neighborhoods. Once, when I was about four-years-old, a gang of older “kids” thought it would be “fun” to hold me to the ground and stuff grass in my mouth. That they were white and I was “ethnic” likely had something to do with the “fun” they were having at my expense. Needless-to-say, incidents like this, though rare, did nothing to improve my belief in my fellow human, at least in the generality; as the  great German man of letters, Goethe, so astutely wrote of the German people: “So estimable in the individuality, yet so wretched in the generality”—sentiments that were to be proven all too real during Nazi rule.

Unfortunately, things seem to have only become worse amongst the last few generations. Lack of acceptance of personal responsibility for actions, or the results of actions, are frequent, but more often the problem is the poor choice in “role models.” When I was a kid, being a “gangsta” was only “cool” to delinquents and criminals; today, a great many of today’s youth take their cues from “artists” with a thug mentality, spewing out so-called “music” often vulgar and even violent. “Respect” is what they expect, even if their own behavior is rude and contemptuous. 

I prefer not to engage in generalities, but as they say, bad behavior has a much longer shelf life in the memory than good. Of course, if someone of celebrity status or sports star is guilty of bad behavior in the past, it probably isn’t a good idea to dredge it up for public consumption, because it might have the effect of losing the “benefit of the doubt” in the public’s mind if something does occur that makes it “applicable.”

For example, Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson has this squeaky clean persona with the public, in Seattle and in the sports media generally. He is one of the shortest quarterbacks in the NFL, so there is this “natural” perception that he is “vulnerable” to the big bad guys in the league. This perception has just been called into question. It seems that newly retired Yankees star Derek Jeter has started a website in which athletes can post “exclusive” information about themselves unfiltered, instead of through the news media. One of the first posts is from Wilson, who decided that it would make a “splash” if he told some previously unknown truth about himself—although not necessarily “unknown” to his victims, who have otherwise kept their silence. 

Wilson claims that as a youth he was a “bully,” beating up other kids, shoving their faces into the ground, all for the “fun” of it, I suppose. Actually, he admits he wasn’t a very “nice” kid, contrary to his current image. I suppose we all have some dirty laundry to hide under the bed; I once read that actress Michelle Pfeiffer admitted to have been a “bully” when she was a kid. Of course, we might give Wilson a “pass” on this, since he is simply being “honest” and is showing us that one can eventually “grow up” to be a responsible adult. 

Still, it seems a bit odd to write about this as if it was something we need to know in order to "talk about" a serious topic--domestic violence--in a way that continues to evade the "unfiltered" truth about it. What are the “kids” who learn this supposed to think? It's not "OK" to beat-up women, but when you are kids (or with other males), it's just a "growing up" phase? Some "kids" never grow-up. That you can be a “punk” and a “thug” and still be star athlete and people “respect” you? Isn’t it bad enough that the NBA is full of players who act like street punks both on and off the court? Is this how athletes “connect” with the youth of today? Or is this one “lost” generation passing on its poor habits onto the next—something that money and success has not changed?

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