On occasion, the law doesn’t do what we want it to do. It’s a byproduct of our attempt to remain civilized in the face of uncivilized behavior. It’s a byproduct of being “the more powerful force” or “the better person” when we are forced to confront something truly horrific. Without this level of decorum and rule of law, we would be no better than animals and tyrants, we are told.
And all of those things are right. All of those things are true. We can’t just attack people for what we perceive to be inappropriate or illegal actions that wrong us or others. The law is what protects the weakest and the most disenfranchised among us. Without the law, all of the positive strides made by people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals and immigrants would be cast aside and only the white, rich and powerful would thrive.
I get it. I really, really get it.
And yet, sometimes… sometimes, polite society isn’t going to get us where we want to go. Sometimes, there isn’t enough years on a sentence or enough words to reveal our anger. Sometimes, we just can’t with the whole idea of “being a better person” or “knowing there is a special place in Hell for people like this.”
As pitcher Gene Brabender once noted in “Ball Four” about certain situations, “Where I’m from we talk for a while and then we start hitting.”
To say I condone the actions of Randall Margraves today would be difficult. I’m supposed to be more calm and rational than the monster that is Larry Nassar. I’m supposed to be more dignified than the scourge of anger or the fury of rage. I’m supposed to be better than this.
Unfortunately, I’m not. I totally get it.
My kid was in gymnastics for a short while and every day, I thought about the issues that are often associated with that sport. It carries a huge risk of injury, body dysmorphia, social awkwardness, biological alteration and more. It carries with it a huge commitment, both financial and physical. It draws on some of the worst instincts of parents and competitors (trust me, I sat in that observation deck and had to put on headphones to avoid the horrible things parents said about other kids and their own). I let it ride until she was about 7 when we decided to make her choose gymnastics or karate and we kind of nudged her toward karate.
I never once thought, “Hey, if she gets hurt I wonder if there’s a child-molesting asshole there ready to pop a couple fingers into the inner recesses of her body for his own sick pleasure.”
I never once thought, “I bet if there is a guy like that, he’ll be protected, covered for and overall allowed to do it to the point where CNN needs a goddamned scoreboard to keep track of the accusers.”
I didn’t think these things and that makes me terrified and it makes me understand guys like Randall Margraves. He knew all the “real” risks associated with this sport his kids loved. He understood the issues that come with this and how hard it is for people like his daughters to compete at the highest level. He accepted them and trusted the sport, the team and the support staff.
To be hit with something like a Larry Nassar is to be blindsided in a way that makes you question everything you are as a parent. To have to sit there and listen to lawyers parse the “degree” to which something happened or how the number of potential victims is really “not believable” has got to be more than even the most decent human being can withstand.
In a vacuum or in theory, we should condemn someone like Randall Margraves for his actions because, well, it’s just not what we do.
In practice, I’m surprised nobody tried this sooner.