No Country for Grown Men

I’ve been reading news articles sporadically over the past couple of weeks regarding a highly controversial criminal case that found the defendant guilty of several charges of a sexual nature.  Brock Turner, a Stanford student and athlete (hence this being called the “Stanford rape case”), raped a woman.  Two men passing by stopped him, and one held him until police arrived.

There’s not much to say about the facts.  The medical documentation and the witnesses make the question of whether or not he actually raped her a quick one to answer, and the answer is that he definitely did.  This is probably why his lawyers resorted to insinuating that the victim was promiscuous and that the lack of consent in the case was not so clearly established.

And now that the verdict has been rendered, the question for Brock and his father is how they will handle the situation.  A grown man owns his mistakes and does not find anyone or anything to blame but himself.  Unfortunately, Brock seems to blame the alcohol.  While I recognize the serious dangers that arise with excessive alcohol intake, alcohol by itself doesn’t cause rape.

Many years ago, when I had a close relationship with tequila, I was on a rare occasion very drunk, even to the point of throwing up and passing out.  And I was usually drinking tequila around women.  Even when those women acted like they might be romantically interested in me, I didn’t rape them.  And this didn’t require any special effort on my part to hold back the flood of testosterone that causes my heavy musculature and thick beard.

Not raping someone doesn’t require some sort of Herculean effort for which anyone should get any social credit.  I don’t and shouldn’t get any special recognition for not sexually assaulting women, whether alcohol was involved or not.  The vast majority of men aren’t rapists despite being around women and alcohol, and the only problem with that situation is that I was forced by the facts to write the phrase “vast majority” instead of the word “all” which I would like to be able to honestly write.

Even so, Mr. Turner would rather rationalize his behavior than confront his responsibility and pay the price.  This rationalizing of our immoral behaviors and avoiding our responsibility is not something specific to men; it’s a general human problem.  That said, as a man I do think that we men have a moral duty (just as women have one) to stop rationalizing our immoral choices and accept full responsibility for them.

This is apparently not what his father thinks.  His father wrote a note asking for leniency in sentencing.  A lot of people are offended by parts of the note, and rightly so.  Describing rape as “20 minutes of action” is incredibly callous, though I suspect it makes it easier for him to think of it that way so that he doesn’t have to confront the full reality of his son’s serious crime.  Brock apparently gets his refusal to be a grown man from his father, his father who can’t seem to understand why his son isn’t the victim here.

While I’m sure the process has been difficult for his son, and it’s natural as a father to want to help a son in distress, trying to excuse his behavior doesn’t help him or anyone else.  If his son is going to find healing and “give back to society in a net positive way”, then he will need to show his son how to be a grown man and accept his responsibility for the crime.

The best thing he can give a society which is always trying to excuse the failures of the individuals which comprise it and its own collective failures is an example of taking responsibility and allowing that to prompt a true change of heart.  That would also be the right thing to do for the victim, whose own statement is moving and bursts forth with the truth that, “Nobody wins.  We have all been devastated, we have all been trying to find some meaning in all of this suffering.”

Currently, this is apparently no country for grown men, but it can be if we are willing to take responsibility for our failures and work to make sure that we ourselves, our sons, our brothers, and our friends get in the habit of accepting responsibility for their mistakes and paying the price for them.  That is what’s necessary for a net positive benefit to society to come after of these horrible crimes.

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