Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Many problems ... and counting

That whole Duggar thing. Man.

I’m pretty sure no one is shocked that a family of 21 (and counting?) would have some skeletons in its massive cluster of closets. It is, after all, 21 people, not counting cousins, spouses/side-huggers, grandkids, the TV crew, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Nobody’s perfect, but dozens of people are really imperfect — to say nothing of the parochial pressure they’re all under. I suspect there are many, many more revelations that will inevitably arise.

But, hopefully, there’s nothing else on the level of child molestation. I don’t think even the most hardcore rubberneckers expected that.

A few points we need to keep in mind:

No one should be gloating over this. Child molestation is a tragedy with few equals. I hope those of a typically compassionate nature don’t reduce this to a punch line.

But no one should be dismissing it either. One popular refrain has been that this news is driven mainly by a desire to discredit the Duggars out of jealousy or somesuch. Nonsense. It’s a case of a boy committing a crime and having his family cover it up with the assistance of a police officer (who was later busted for child porn), then lying about the counseling he received (helping build a house is not counseling). To say nothing of the victims (which none of them have).

The Duggars have built their brand largely on the specific political concept of “family values” and that their strain of patriarchal Christianity is the source of all that is decent and good. Josh Duggar was (until now) a top player with the Family Research Council, a political lobbying group that depicts gays as threats to children. During his 2002 campaign for U.S. Senate, Jim Bob Duggar called for incest to be treated as a capital crime. So for them to cover up sibling molestation particularly brings to mind the Bible’s advice about beams in the eye. 

And it illustrates one of the nastiest aspects of religion — the idea that the rules don’t apply to you because you are among the chosen ones. That you can claim forgiveness from Jesus so there should be no consequences. Because it’s different somehow.

Josh was a minor, yes, but he was a teenager. I knew when I was 5 years old (and possibly before) that you don’t do … that. By 14, I was versed in the finer points of asking out, making out and breaking up. Yes, the Duggars teach a polar-opposite approach to dating that mostly involves the bliss of ignorance. But that’s still no excuse for a teen to not know that there are at least 73 levels of wrong in fondling/violating your baby sisters in their sleep.

It’s unfair to jeer Josh’s past allies and defenders. Not because of this, anyway (the irony of politicians decrying a “celebrity” president embracing reality-show stars is fair game). It’s not as if they were aware of his past. What matters now is how they react now that it’s out. Many of them, to their credit, are creating distance.

But it is fair to raise eyebrows at those who are still on board. Some defenders of Josh, like Mike Huckabee and Matt Walsh (who wrote the Matt Walshiest column ever about it), are doubling down. Come on, guys. It’s not like he’s a close friend or relative and you have to wrestle with that moral ambiguity; he’s a celebrity. It’s OK to say, “I liked him before, but he has irrevocably disgraced himself and I will not rhetorically contort to embarrassing degrees to justify his transgressions.” See also: Cosby, Bill and Sharper, Darren.

This sad incident should put to rest the lingering idea in America that any group of people has a lock on morality. It’s weird to say in a blog, but deeds, not words, matter most.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day thought

A lot of people see today as a day for nonstop somber reflection

But I think back to my grandfather, who served in World War II, who spent most Memorial Day weekends barbecuing and having a good time.

Pop would talk about the war from time to time (he was a Navy Seabee who walked through Nagasaki after the bomb dropped there and never saw combat). He retained his rifles and other military paraphernalia (including a big box of dynamite we found stored away after he died). He had a huge stash of photographs — and also some undeveloped rolls of film from the war that he took to Walmart in the mid-1990s to see what they could do with them. (They came out great and they didn't charge him for them.) We had a long conversation about his service when I was in high school. That era of his life was a big part of who he was, and we was never shy about saying so.

One thing he never, ever did was lord his service over anyone. I never heard him complain about people not deferring enough, or about observing holidays in a certain manner. He never implied that enlisted people were better than civilians. He avidly supported our family members in the military, but never came off as hawkish. His attitude in general seemed to be that we fight, when we need to, so that we can continue to live the way we do. So we should live it up.

I saw a cartoon a few years ago that showed a man and his WWII-vet father talking as a young child played. The man said something like, "That kid has no concept of what you went through." And the vet replied, "That's the idea." That was Pop. Ever so humble.

Though he died several decades after the war, I remember him today. And everyone else.

And now I go off to enjoy what they've defended for us, just like Pop would want.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Today in "freedom"

I'm no lawyer (unlike the man who created these signs), but it seems to me that the notion of implied consent would render such signs moot.

When anyone drives on a public roadway in any state, the implication is that they consent to the rules of the road, which includes taking a sobriety test if officers have deemed it necessary. DUI checkpoints are often set up during times when police reasonably assume that a large number of drunken drivers might be on the road, such as on weekend nights during big events.

Personally, I have no problem with this. Intoxicated drivers imperil us all, and everyone is aware of the dangers of engaging in drunken driving. I don't find it a victory for "freedom" when people get wind of where a checkpoint might be (though if that information deters someone from driving, it might be useful). 

I also don't see the virtue in not cooperating. I've been through several checkpoints — including one that was set up near my home one night, which I turned just in front of to go to the store, hoping that the officers wouldn't take that as a sign I was avoiding them (I wasn't; I was stone sober and straight from work). All these times, it never occurred to me not to cooperate (then again, I was always sober), and I have a hard time understanding why someone with nothing to hide wouldn't. (Again, we're talking about the public roadways. I might feel differently in other situations.)

So I know checkpoints are a hassle. I know that like with anything law enforcement-related, there is potential for abuse. But all in all, I think checkpoints are an asset.

Traffic can be a dangerous proposition — drinking, gabbing, texting, fatigue, car trouble, general distraction — and the mistakes others make can be life-altering or fatal to themselves and to others. Because of this, I support the fair enforcement of traffic laws. Not abuse, mind you, but neither will I equate "freedom" with the "right" to avoid responsibility.

I hope everyone who shares the road with me feels the same way.