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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Limits of the Cultural Card

Domestic violence is the issue of the day in the National Football League. The news media have been
Peterson's son's wounds
covering the Ray Rice situation extensively, though it took the entertainment site TMZ to get the NFL to finally look seriously at Rice knocking out his then fiance in an elevator in an Atlantic City casino. Perhaps more disconcerting are the allegations that Minnesota Vikings' star running back Adrian Peterson beat two of his children, both four years old, with a switch. Picture have surfaced of one of the boys with open wounds on his body from the beating. Peterson has been indicted by a Texas grand jury in one of the cases, the other (from last year) was never prosecuted. It's certainly a horrifying situation, but it may be that the comments in social media are even more horrifying. It would seem that more than a few Americans are more than willing to see children as a piece of meat that can be beaten at will with no more justification than "that's what happened to me and I turned out alright." Of course, back when I was fetal, to coin a term, parents routinely smoked during pregnancy because the consequences of doing so weren't fully understood. Strangely enough, you don't hear too many people using the same kind of logic, that "I turned out alright," regarding mothers smoking while pregnant.
Trust your gut, Charles

Enter TNT basketball commentator and former NBA player Charles Barkley. Charles Barkley tells us that this sort of thing "is what parent's do in the south. It's cultural." The implication is that all cultural values are good values, and that nobody has the right to interfere with cultural values regardless of how they might impact their victims. By this logic, we shouldn't have prosecuted Warren Jeffs and the FLDS for their practice of forcing underage girls to marry much older men because it, too, was a cultural value. We shouldn't have given women the right to vote, because that was a cultural value and so was sacrosanct, the movement for equal rights is also wrong by virtue of challenging cultural values, we should still be throwing suspected witches in rivers because of cultural values, and - yes I will go there - slavery should never have ended because it, too, was a cultural value. The "cultural value" concept is a slippery slope when extended in an attempt to cover situations in which people are hurt and abused. Contrary to the opinion of Charles Barkley and (if he is to be believed) the American south, children are people - not property to be disposed of as one wishes. They are in fact human beings, and should have the same protection from physical violence that every other human being has. There is no legitimate cultural value that includes child abuse, and if you hit your child with an object that causes wounds I find your argument that such behavior doesn't constitute abuse to be vacuous.

In response to the Peterson indictment, the Minnesota Vikings did the right thing and deactivated him for last week's game. Then on Monday, after losing badly the day before, the Vikings reinstated Peterson. That's a hugely disappointing statement about where the priorities of the Minnesota Vikings reside. Vikings' owner Zygi Wilf has a shady past of his own, and despite being a billionaire recently held up the people of Minnesota for a new stadium for his Vikings to play in. He may be a lousy
football mind, but he can play the extortion game very well. A statement from Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf would be laughable if the stakes weren't so high.

"Today's decision was made after significant thought, discussion, and consideration," the statement read. "As evidenced by our decision to deactivate Adrian from yesterday's game, this is clearly a very important issue. On Friday, we felt it was in the best interests of the organization to step back, evaluate the situation, and not rush to judgment given the seriousness of this matter. At that time, we made the decision that we felt was best for the Vikings and all parties involved.

"To be clear, we take very seriously any matter than involves the welfare of a child. At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action. This is a difficult path to navigate, and out focus is on doing the right thing. Currently we believe we are at a juncture where the most appropriate next step is to allow the judicial process to move forward.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and support Adrian's fulfillment of his legal responsibilities throughout this process."

And if you believe that, I have some ocean front property in Nebraska I'd like to sell you.

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