It started with Milo, and it wasn’t a good week for Milo. Milo Yiannopoulos nailed a pedophilia news hat trick. The media juggernaut who calls Donald Trump “Daddy,”adored by fans at Breitbart, pulled a fabulous 1-2-3 punch as he screwed the pooch, martyred himself, and ended up even richer.
First, Milo said some really stupid stuff about men loving boys, and he got the media all stirred up.
Next, Milo quit his job “because they stuck by me when nobody else did,” which makes you wonder why he didn’t stick with them now…
But then, for the hat trick, Milo declared himself a victim. And boy, did he give a compelling rant about it. A victim of the dishonest media, a victim of people who hate him, and — pause for effect — Milo is a victim of pedophilia. And with all PR being good PR, Milo gets rich because people hate him.
But there was a bigger story. Bigger than Milo. Narcissism casts a long dark shadow, but this is bigger than Milo.
There’s a guy in prison in Michigan for sexually abusing a minor and possessing child porn. Unique? Of course not. Then, last week Larry Nassar was charged with another twenty-two counts of sexual abuse of a minor.
Larry Nassar, MD, was the volunteer team doctor for US Gymnastics. Dozens of juvenile female athletes allege that they were sexually abused by Nassar, who inexplicably was allowed access to them for “examinations.” Allowed by US Gym, and tolerated and silenced at the highest levels, according to an ex-Olympian. Allowed by, and allegedly perpetrated at, Michigan State University’s sports medicine clinic and a local Michigan club. And for God’s sake, allowed by the parents of these girls. Allowed access, alone, unsupervised, when he allegedly groped them, touched them, and…
…and what the hell? How did this happen?
The doc is the perp, and the only perp. No doubt about that. But… how did any parent… who were these parents? How did they allow their little girls, their precious treasures, their pre-teen girls, into an exam room? Alone? With a middle-aged man?
Excuse Playin’ in the Dirt for asking the damn question again. But what kind of parent allows this? Is Mom so enamored that she waits outside because God forbid she embarrass her little girl by being in the room during the exam? Is Dad so overwhelmed with a gold-medal dream that he hums the national anthem in the waiting room while Doc shuts the door, removes his rubber gloves and digitally penetrates that little girl on the other side of that thin wall? Is that what happened? Who’s watching the henhouse while the fox steps inside? While he locks out the nurse with her white coat and clipboard?
But as Arlo Guthrie said,
That’s not what I’m here to tell you about.
Milo and Nassar were just the intro.
Here in our little town in our corner of the world, we had our own sex abuse scandal pop up again. And nobody even raised a what-the-hell.
Andy King was a swim coach. He abused girls on aquatic clubs for thirty years before he was caught and tossed in prison.
Last week, our local sheriff’s department agreed to a $1.5 million settlement in favor of five of his victims. One of the pool commissioners was also a sheriff’s employee, and he failed his sworn duty to protect those girls in the face of sexually suggestive behavior, right out in the open, by King.
This is old news. And we’re already bored with it.
A few years back, our little town heard about those same five girls cashing in for a few million bucks from the pool district itself. But stick a few million in their pockets, and those five girls are still wounded.
Even after decades of pain, broken relationships, mental illness, and substance abuse, their story isn’t salacious enough to hold our interest. Ho hum. Creepy swim coach. Happened twenty years ago. Girls got some money. Could never happen here. Not ever again.
Meanwhile the public discourse tells us what’s really important to us: A cacophony of insults and threats over Navy jet noise. Citizens suggest a local animal abuser be shot on sight. A hundred-year-old barn burns down, and thousands of bucks are raised to rebuild it before the ashes cool.
But nobody has a damn thing to say about pedophiles, manipulators, and those who harm our most vulnerable neighbors.
We can argue about noise, support a mule owner against criminals, rally around a farmer in a time of loss. Those are all good things. Our community rocks.
But where the hell is the compassion and love for five girls who were wronged so badly? Where is the outrage at King? Where are the online trolls hoping he’ll get a little karma in his cell? Those guys make their enraged posts whenever animals are mutilated, beaten, or lit on fire. Why not just a shred of decency standing up for five fellow human beings?
And where are the questions about what environment could possibly have let this happen in the first place?
Their wounds are clear. The crime is clear. And the guilt is clear. The guilt is staring us in the eye, right there in the mirror, and we have to look away.
Like US Gym allowed Nassar in, our community let Andy King come in here and take whatever he wanted from those little girls twenty years ago. Not because someone else did a lax background check. Not because we needed better policies. It happened because hundreds of people saw a man with girls sitting on his lap in their swim suits, saw a man taking girls into closed-door rooms for one-on-one “weigh-ins,” saw a grown man taking thirteen-year-olds on dates and unchaperoned road trips, saw all this happening and did nothing about it.
Swim parents, fellow coaches, pool patrons. We didn’t say a goddamn thing. We let it happen, and we can’t begrudge a few million in payments to broken adults. But the money does nothing to give back the childhoods we let him steal.
Could it happen here again?
It’s worth asking, when angry confusion about jet noise fills the news, but the victims’ endless pain after twenty years earns only deafening silence.