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To shut up Serena and Sharapova, we must change
June 24, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
I reluctantly wade into this because it’s my job, but I was happy to sit on the sidelines since last August, whiling away the time and marveling at how awful a community can be.
I’ve tried to start this column about six times during the past 10 weeks since I’ve been back in the newsroom, only to file the fits and starts away, hoping someday to have a little clearer thought.
I don’t know how clear the thoughts have become, but it’s time to say something. After all The Boss (at work) made some crack about having missed my “biting social commentary” the other day, whatever the hell that means.
The “this” of which I speak is categorically called the “Big Red Rape Case” or the “Steubenville Rape Case.”
And the final straw that gets me off the sidelines is, of all things, the person of Maria Sharapova. While she and Serena Williams are having a high-school girl catfight with verbal sparring, Sharapova has chosen to weigh in with her view on Williams’ insensitive remarks about the victim in the case. All day Saturday, the Twitter computer behind my head in the newsroom was blipping and bleeping about 10 times a minute while the Twittersphere weighed in with its retweets and nasty comments, all of them featuring the word “Steubenville.” Indeed, the tennis catfight made the “Today” show on Monday, leading off, of course, with the words “Steubenville rape case.”
In the past, when Steubenville has been under harsh national spotlights, I’ve circled the wagons and gone on defense.
I won’t this time. It accomplishes nothing, changes nothing.
And therein lies what made me wait to write this.
I love the town where I grew up. The experience I had in the West End of this city in the 1960s and 1970s was literally “Leave It to Beaver.” It is possible to have grown up in such a place in Steubenville, despite the national portrayal of the “gritty steel town” and now the place portrayed as where every young man is a rapist and we’re all a bunch of idiots with green teeth looking for a chance to prove our stupidity to the world.
While I am sick of having to go to the mirror and check to see if my teeth have indeed turned green, or having to work a quick crossword puzzle to make sure my IQ hasn’t fallen too much from having chosen to make my living in my hometown, I won’t circle the wagons, either.
The rape happened. That is it. It’s an ugly word. And all the circumstances surrounding it are awful for all involved and it’s become a cesspool whose stink slops us all, whether or not we directly waded through its muck.
I won’t circle the wagons. It’s nearly a year since the booze-fueled teen party blew the lid off the social ills of teen drinking and sexual conduct and their misguided, unguided, inexperienced way of leading their lives on the social media. That is not a Steubenville-only problem.
I won’t circle the wagons because in that year, I cannot for the life of me figure what Steubenville has done to turn this horrid negative situation into a positive to help other girls and boys in the future. Where is the leadership that could make this community the leader of a national discussion about social networks, kids and conduct in the wired wireless world in which we now live? We’ve let others, including a couple of cat-fighting tennis players, take command of that situation while we seem to do nothing more than get ready for another season of football up and down the valley, as if nothing happened except the world is beating the crap out of us.
Business as usual. Circle the wagons.
We’re not the only place where this awful stuff is happening. It happened in Annapolis, apparently, but nobody is carrying on about the Midshipmen and their version of the Steubenville case. Apparently, unlike Steubenville, nobody would consider the Navy ripe for kicking in its green teeth.
It’s happened in California and elsewhere, and yet, Steubenville is what the world is gang-tackling. It is what it is, and it’s not going to go away, no matter how much we wish it would. We are where we are. This community doesn’t need to circle the wagons. We need to get up off the mat and take charge.
But that would require someone in town actually having an idea and being able to follow through without fear of bullying by people who only think in terms of their school’s colors. It’s not about Big Red or Indian Creek or Central or any other school. It isn’t about football. It’s about kids. It’s about parenting in today’s world, where kids never leave the world of other kids because they’re plugged into that even while they’re in the room with their parents and families.
Anybody in this town want to get up off the mat and talk about that? Because I ran out of wagons a long time ago.
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