(Children's ice cream, Mandrake? Yesterday AM I switched on the teevee for some reason just as the Today Show came on with its opening parody of The News designed to make that 1% of America which remembers Dave Garroway imagine it's back in high school, or something. This despite the fact that it's not even the fucking news anymore, which was driven home, like I needed that, by the fact that the lead story was the death of that SeaWorld trainer. And over and over (and, oh, over) again the teleprompter readers reminded us that the tragedy occurred in full view of the audience, including parents with children! With Children! As though anybody else is gonna be in Orlando in late winter hoping to wring some precious amusement out of captive marine mammals spouting on command, or elephants in tutus, or roller-skating chimps. The Children! Shut up. It's not the lesson I'd have them taught, and God Knows it's not how I'd've taught it even if it was, but dollars to doughnuts "Lookee! We can put Big Fishies in a tank for the slack-jawed amusement of thoughtless Consumption addicts, and the profit of corporations with little or no concern for the sale conditions of valuable breeding stock with a bad track record" is gonna wind up haunting some of the adorable little tykes at some point, too. Just wait'll they have kids of their own!)
Yes, Defense Highways (back up to the start if you don't remember), and that wasn't just there to assuage the ever-watchful and philosophically-consistent legislative watchdogs of Eisenhower's own party about the largest public works project in history (to that time, at least). Eisenhower famously admired the Autobahn, just as he famously got no closer to actual combat in a thirty-five year military career spanning both World Wars than mop-up operations against the Bonus Army. In fairness, he didn't really have much experience playing defense, apart from the occasional rescue of surviving remnants of his fuck-ups at the Kasserine Pass, or Bastogne, say, so we might be charitable enough to suggest it never fucking occurred to him that the transportation benefits of a first-class road system extended to the attacker as well. Either that or, as is more likely, neither he nor any other marginally sane person in 1950s America really believed any of that Red Dawn shit.
Cut to: Today. Far be it from us to kick Hamilton county while it's down; it's just that it always deserves kicking somewhere. Last week came word that what was being described as a "bullying incident" had taken place on the boy's basketball team bus a month earlier on a trip home from Terre Haute, a hundred miles to the southwest. Apparently three senior boys had "bullied" two freshman players. [The Reader will note that here we leave the familiar, if ecologically-challenged realm where things which are said are in some way related to Facts, or someone's understanding of Facts, that someone being a person using those words to convey Facts, and enter the Republican Zone.]
We are, as you know, a public-education savvy household. So when the Principal of Carmel High School comes on a dismisses the thing out of hand while congratulating himself on his quick and correct action once this matter was brought to his attention, my Poor Wife and I listened with what your Doctor calls "exponentially elevated skepticism levels". Nothing to see here, Folks! The young men in question have been disciplined. Sorry, but confidentiality laws prevent us from giving you any further information. In conclusion, not a crime. Bye.
Now, in case you skipped that video, or you'd been struck dumb long before the Coach's comment was relayed, here it is again:
That is, at this point--we're just scratching the surface yet, people, but even now we know that "bullying" occurred on a public school bus, during transportation of students from a school-sponsored extra-curricular event, which resulted in the suspension of three players who were presumably being supervised at that moment by said Coach, and possibly as many as three assistants--part of the public comment from the school is a bad locker-room homily about standing up to Adversity when Adversity shoves something up your bunghole. Well, he ain't the Math Bowl Coach.
Now, there is an anti-bullying law in effect in Indiana for public schools, but it is so toothless it's practically gumless into the bargain. Nevertheless, is this how you want officials at your child's school to treat the issue? Is this the sort of awareness you'd expect from administrators? Or teachers? Or lunch ladies?
And this was merely the Prelude, the strutting of Players across the stage before the real tale began. It's difficult at this point (one week later!) to keep all the leaks in chronological order, but what has been rather feebly dismissed as the "rumor mill" by school officials pretty much exploded at this point. The students were known, despite the school's solicitous concern for their Rights, because they were the three Seniors who didn't dress for the game. (Whether they, in fact, had an expectation of privacy that included anonymity, given what the Court has routinely decided about high school students in general and extra-curricularists in particular, is moot.) By the weekend we had heard "rumors" that one of the freshman players had received treatment in an emergency room; that the report to the school (variously, on February 10 or 15 or 16) had come not from the parents of either player, but from the parent of a student not on the team who had reported gossip which was filling the halls; and that, contrary to the initial assurances the incient had not risen to the level of criminality, the hospital had filed a police report concerning the ER visit, and that there was a police report filed the day before the public announcement which included potential charges of battery, criminal confinement, and criminal deviate conduct. "Criminal deviate conduct" under Indiana law means someone has been forced to perform a deviate sexual act against his or her will. (Oddly enough, to this point, every "unfounded rumor going around" has proven to be pretty much on target.)
So now the pressure is building on these petty tyrants, and it's not the sort usually associated with Coaches and the rectums of dewy-limbed Youth. On Wednesday there's a joint Press Conference featuring the school, the district, and Carmel Police, who, you'll recall, weren't anywhere in the picture the last time we got the unvarnished truth from these little Röhms. And now they're saying even less than they did the first time. The cops hit the ground running by informing everyone that the investigation is likely to take a while, say, your standard Search for WMDs timeframe, apparently under the impression that this will give everyone time to find something else to amuse themselves with but, Surprise! it actually encourages local media impersonators to climb on the story and hope for a ride on the Major Market Comet or something. * Then one or two old-timers remembers the Freedom of Information Act, and demands the police report. Which was released the next day (yesterday):
And which one or two cranks seem to think has, oh, a little more readactivity than strictly legal, though just the ten minutes of supervisory oblivion is pretty damning. Meanwhile, Channel 59 finds a parent of a freshman team member (not one of the assault victims) who says (anonymously) 1) the attack did involve a region more commonly employed for egress, 2) that the fear of these kids was so pervasive that none of the freshmen wanted to enter the locker room unaccompanied, 3) they all kept their sweatpants tied as tightly as they could manage, and that 4) Principal Williams' principled speech to the freshman team about the incident included the threat that anyone who spoke to the Media would be kicked off the team and suspended from school, confirmation of an earlier "unfounded rumor" Williams has denied. And another report of a locker-room assault has been filed.
Meanwhile, how three or four coaches missed this happening on a bus they were supervising is perhaps open to discussion, if we're feeling charitable; how they miss a pattern of behavior so widespread among twelve boys supervised by three adults, or how an administration misses the slightest hint of what's common knowledge in its own halls, is not. Which goes double for a police department deciding physical evidence of a sexual assault on a fifteen-year-old kid isn't worth investigating until it turns up on the teevee. We are reminded, as always with these things, how bright the line between zero tolerance for such things and looking the other way because it's your star athletes, and how difficult it is to act like you're honest when you have no intention of letting that get in your way.
* Don't mean to minimize the contribution, or the honest concerns about bullying, just the dedication to getting a story wherever one arises. Channel 59 has gone so far as to issue a public declaration that it will stay with the story regardless, which gives you an idea of what sort of "Why are you still covering this when it's already settled and/or Under Investigation?" pressures they're getting from rich people. And as with Tiger Wood's little fender-bender, if the initial Apology had been up to standard the whole thing would've been left to the Pulitizer-Prize-winning journalists at the Enquirer, and we'd be back talking about the weather.