mepham update: false pride
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.
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.