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mepham update: false pride

[Previous Mepham stories here]

I said I wasn't going to cover the Mepham story any longer. I'm going back on my word.

Ed Lowe has a fantastic column in Newsday today that really gets to the heart of the matter - well, at least the heart of what I think the matter is.

Today is the day that a judge in Pennsylvania will decide whether or not the football players charged in the incident will be tried as adults. In a not-so-shocking development, one of the accused players has agreed to testify against the others in exchange for his being tried as a juvenile. I'm not a big fan of plea bargains, but perhaps the truth will be told at last this way.

Back to Ed Lowe. Ed is basically a household name on Long Island. Everyone knows his columns, most everyone respects him. He just gained even more of my respect for writing this column, which will surely result in an avalanche of hate mail sent his way.

He takes on the myth of "Mepham Pride" by dismissing a grandmother's worry that the girls track team is suffering because they didn't get enough coverage of their season.

Members of the Mepham girls' track team are suffering? Spare me. What about the kid who knows that everyone else knows who he is, and that nobody he knows or admires tried to save him? Nobody on his team. Not one person. Not one friend or teammate. How alive is his pride, while Mepham's lives on?

Lowe echoes my sentiments about one part of the whole "hazing" scene that stands out in my mind:

I can't erase from my head the newspaper sentence about the music: that they turned up the music so nobody in the coaches' building would hear the screams. They knew the victims would scream.

That's not the mind of a couple of kids engaging in some silly hazing rituals at work. That's the careful, methodic, very adult mind of someone planning to hurt another person. These boys are not kids, in the sense that their actions were just typical high school pranks. They had the presence of mind to bring a broomstick along on the trip, to bring a radio to drown out the screams of the victims, to coat the objects of offense with mineral ice in order to make the pain and humiliation even greater.

Lowe touches on the subject that I've brought up before: this "hazing" was a sexual assualt. And it was not, as Rev. Phelps and others might thing, about sex. It was about power.

By the way, let's also adopt-we timid reporters and editors-the one letter-writer's suggestion that we drop from the discussion the phrases "hazing ritual," and "sexual assault." Broomstick sodomy, a la Justin Volpe vs. Abner Louima, is no ritual, and it is about as sexual as fingernail-removal, genitalia-wiring or the forcing of rocks down a 10-year-old kid's throat to stop him, permanently, from bearing witness to a minibike theft.

These guys tortured kids. It's torture: criminal, felony, monstrous, horrific torture. Once convicted of felony torture, torturers no longer should be trusted with civil liberties.

Justin Volpe is rotting in jail for committing a similar act of violence upon a fellow human being. In fact, Volpe's weapon of choice - a broomstick - was the same that the Mepham kids used.

Mepham Pride. We hear and see a lot of that around these parts. I can't go into a store or restaurant without seeing some parent/alumni sporting a Mepham Pride button. I see the sports guys and girls proudly wearing their Mepham jackets and t-shirts and jerseys, some of them decorated by hand with magic markers, the words Mepham Pride scrawled on the clothing.

Lowe again:

And what about those kids, complicit in their indecipherable cowardice? Is their pride alive? What do they see in themselves when they look at war veterans, on Veterans Day? Who are their heroes, and why?

Mepham pride? What about the possibility that we somehow have raised a generation of moral cowards? Do you want any one of those football heroes covering your son's or your daughter's back next year in Tikrit?

That's the bottom line here. What are the parents and coaches and administration teaching the students of Bellmore when they backpedal or stay silent or refuse to own up to their responsibility in this case? What are the people who are supporting the accused and supporting the responsible adults at Mepham saying to their own children?

I don't want to be around those kids five or ten years from now when they are adults themselves and have no sense of morals, no sense of responsibility and behave as if the world owes them something.

But back to the matter at hand - today's hearing.

These kids should be tried as adults. Their actions were pre-meditated, calculated and despicable. They meant not only to hurt, but to humiliate as well. You can't tell me that raping your teammates with a broomstick and a pine cone is not a criminal act worthy of adult punishment. A couple of years probation and counseling is not going to teach anyone a lesson. Except, of course, for the victims, who will learn that justice is not always served and pride is often misplaced.

Comments

A great column by Ed Lowe - all should read.

I live in the town next door, so I see him around now and then. Believe me, hate mail won't ruffle this guy in the least. He's a curmudgeonly fellow (as opposed to the nasty, bitter old Breslin) who'll give as good as he gets.

So the PA DA played a little 'divide and conquer' and got one of the bastards to plea. Too bad this wasn't the same type of plea that those boys were likely making while being held down on the floor with the music blaring. He felt fear, and this foreign idea of 'consequences for one's actions' may have germinated in one of his dozen or so brain cells. Too bad it's probably nowhere near the level of fear his victims felt, and still feel as they walk the halls and face people who still blame them for telling.

Also, kudos to the 2 Moms who spoke on WABC the other night. I tell you, I admire their control - I'd be a lot more angry on camera.

Maybe this is the break that will blow it open. It's sure to create a visible rift amongst the various sides. They all deserve each other and everything they get.

WG, LI

Plea bargaining disgusts me. This piece of **** will now get away with everything he did, just because he's willing to talk.
Sadly enough, they will probably all be tried as juveniles. The justice system is to corrupt and incompetent to do anything honest and just anymore.
Gotta let them young criminals go, so they commit more crimes in the future and therefore secure the jobs of the court.

Ed Lowe writes: "Absent honor, pride is delusional."

Damn - that is great stuff. It is so RIGHT. Never thought of it in that particular way before - but Lowe put it into words for me.

Yes, a brilliant line at the end of the column.

The silent ones are 'proud'. 'Delusional' hits it exactly.

WG, LI

Great column and great post. One quick note: I believe Volpe assaulted Louima with a toilet plunger and not a broomstick. That is really the only distinction that I can think of: person in a position of authority and trust, violently and despicably betrays that trust. Unfortunately, that corner in hell reserved for these guys is getting more and more filled every day.

Fantastic column. You know, every time I read something about Mepham, it makes me sick. Not just because of what happened in this incident, but because of this general decline in responsibility in America.

Those kids should absolutely be tried as adults. I say this as a 16-year-old kid. A high school student. Someone with friends on the football team. Most importantly, I say it as a person. If there is honestly a single person out there who thinks what these guys did is even remotely excusable, well... that person is a disgrace to humanity, just like those boys.

It would be great if these guys genuinely reformed themselves. But for a crime like this, no one should get a second chance. What they did was brutal, and disgusting, and as much as I'd like to be able to forgive anyone for anything, it's going to take me a long time to forgive these guys.

Mepham has been getting a lot of coverage over at ABC News. This article about the mothers of the victims really bothered me. "Carol and Pat say they're not seeking 20 years for the accused attackers. They just want their boys to get through high school without the fear of having to face their attackers again."

WHAT??? If these were their daughters instead of their sons, would they still feel that way? Is there ANYONE in Mepham with his/her head screwed on straight?

Sorry. Here's the URL: http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/US/2020/high_school_hazing_031110-3.html

Leslie, you make an excellent point. People would be screaming for the death of those boys if they did this to a girl.

What, pray tell, is the difference?

"Ed Lowe writes: "Absent honor, pride is delusional.""

That's a really great, powerful line.

I think the community reaction to this event implies a degree of complicity in its occurrence. Somewhere along the way, the perpetrators got the idea that such a thing was thinkable. The community's failure to condemn such a horrific crime after the fact is pretty good evidence of where those kids got their initial germ of an idea.

The young men who committed the rapes need to be adjudicated as adults, and those good people in the community ought to be doing some heavy-duty soul-searching rather than whining about how their little Susie isn't getting enough attention for her volleyball triumphs (or whatever).

I doubt that the mothers of the victims would feel differently had their victims been daughters (or said anything differently -- though those two may differ, it is impolitic to say that you hope the bastards rot in hell on television). I am not even sure how different the response would have been had the victims been girls. It might have been a little more pro-victim, but I somehow suspect not. (From experiences I've seen or read about.)
I don't know if or how or why this is our response -- ignoring, even denying horror -- but it seems to be all over. Denial through making it into television, denial through saying that it all happens for the best, that it will all turn out right, that it was meant to be, denial through just plain shutting your eyes.
I hadn't heard the note about the music. It is, indeed, in some ways, the most horrible thing about it. Of course in so many other ways it isn't.
The editorial was wonderful. It will have no impact in Mempham, and I hope Lowe has thick skin, because his trying to remove the denial will not make him popular.