Friday, June 10, 2016

A Lifetime in Twenty Minutes

As we lurch into the back half of the second decade of the 21st Century, it has become something of a cottage industry for people of my generation and older to look askance at "Millennials", shake our heads in a sad, slow, back-and-forth motion and wonder, aloud, how it is they are the people we allege they are.  Far too often, for the not mutually exclusive goals of self-interest and convenience, we throw our metaphorical hands up in disbelief as if we are utterly at a loss to explain their perceived deficiencies and their shortcomings.  

We are the tellers of a tale and the architects of an artifice when we engage in such conduct.  While the self-reflective view is certainly unflattering, it is also unflinchingly honest.  For in significant part, they exist as they do because of us.  Not merely because we gave birth to them but, rather, because we gave them life - or more properly I suppose - we gave them a view of life so incredibly and inexplicably flawed that our feigned astonishment at their embrace of it is fundamentally and intellectually dishonest.  

If you doubt the veracity of these words, then consider these - reduced to writing and then read aloud in open court to a judge in a criminal case in northern California - by the father of the man who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman on the campus of Stanford University.  Respectfully, it appears as if - in the case of Brock Turner - not only did the apple not fall far from the tree, it appears in fact as if the apple dropped ever-so-gently from a low-hanging branch and thereafter remained nestled for all eternity in a protected spot on the ground immediately adjacent to the tree's base.  

To fully comprehend how utterly tone-deaf and obtuse the convicted felon (three times over) and his father are, consider not only Dan Turner's words but those of the felon, himself.    Brock Turner's statement is that of a person who was apparently taught at an early age to hone the skills of avoidance of responsibility and alibi-construction.  If the Boy Scouts gave a merit badge in these disciplines, then Brock Turner would have been well on his way to Eagle Scout by the time he was fourteen.

Being a father is about quite a lot more than the ability to procreate. Frankly, in certain cases - including my own - that ability has nothing to do with it.  My two, much to their relief I am sure, possess none of my DNA.  That fact however had zero to do with my responsibility to them as a parent.  The obligation to teach one's children well is not genetically-based.  

It is a father's responsibility to imbue in his son an understanding of right and wrong.  It is a father's responsibility to teach his son that Rule #1 of Life from which there can never be any retreat is this one:  A Man Stands Up.  A man stands up in support of those he loves.  A man stands up to fight for those things in which he believes.  A man stands up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves.  And a man stands up and accepts responsibility for his actions - especially when his actions are, at the very least, disappointing, and at their worst injurious to another.  

I am comfortable saying that Brock Turner apparently never learned that Rule of Life from his father, Dan.  Additionally, I am comfortable saying that he never learned it because dear old Dad apparently never deigned it necessary to teach it to him.  At this point in his life, it is reasonable to presume that it is a Rule the import of which shall be lost to Brock Turner forever.

I am the cynic in the room who emits the audible snort of derision whenever I am in the company of someone who proclaims himself or herself to be "changed".  In my experience, human beings rarely undergo any substantive, long-lasting change.  Human beings are animals.  Animals are creatures of habit.  Once behavior is learned, the human who has learned it is damn resistant to unlearning it. People engage in the same behavior over and over even though it has never garnered them any success because it is familiar to them.  Familiarity begets comfort.  The expression, "the Devil you know is better than the Devil you don't know" has attained cliche status for a reason.  It accurately embodies the "go-to" response of far too many of us far more often that we would be comfortable to admit.  

As a father, I am simultaneously heartbroken and outraged by what Brock Turner did to his victim - both on the night that he forcibly sexually assaulted her - and here again, more than one year later, when he assaulted her again in the context of his criminal trial.  Her Victim Impact Statement, the complete transcript of which the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office has posted on its website, is a brutal read.  It is, also, a must-read for anyone who for even one-half of one heartbeat bought one morsel of the Turner Family's "Woe is Us" routine.

In his tone-deaf statement to the court at the time of his son's sentencing, Dan Turner exhorted the judge to not reduce Brock Turner's life to "twenty minutes" as if one could not fairly gauge the entirety of Brock Turner's life by concentrating merely on the twenty minutes during which he sexually assaulted the unconscious woman upon whom he was laying - on the ground - behind a dumpster.  A sexual assault upon an unconscious woman, which was forcibly stopped by two male graduate students who happened to see what was going on while they were riding their bicycles in the area and who, upon seeing it, immediately pounced on Brock Turner to prevent him from running away (which he was attempting to do) and called 9-1-1 to get police and emergency medical personnel to the scene.

Dan Turner's plea is as intellectually dishonest as it is patently offensive.  It conveniently overlooked all that transpired in the almost eighteen months between the night on which his son committed his crimes and the day on which he was sentenced for them.  Not to mention the fact that it ignored a critical fact altogether, which I feel compelled to impart to Mr. Turner (old and young) so they do not continue to pay this particular example of their ignorance forward:

In a sexual assault, the victim is NOT the one who is straddling the 
unconscious woman on the ground beneath him trying to penetrate her
every way imaginable.  He is the PERPETRATOR.

Twenty minutes is indeed a snapshot.  However, Dan Turner, sometimes a snapshot is enough.  Every now and again, although the sample size is small in terms of its duration, it is substantial enough that the picture it paints is accurate.  Even when the look we get is as brief as twenty minutes.  As the song says, "I've seen enough, I don't want to see any more."  

Mr. Turner - speaking as one father to another - you failed abysmally when you failed to teach your son Rule #1.  He shall likely never learn it.  You have not.  Now, the least you can do is teach him how to Shut the Fuck Up.  Better yet, find a tutor, get a Groupon, and sign up for a group lesson.  It is a skill that you need as much as - if not more than - your son. 

-AK 



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