It's been a troublesome week for the NFL. They are finally faced with what has been happening under the surface of the league for years now, as testified to by former players such as Chris Carter and Keyshawn Johnson this morning on ESPN. What is interesting is the response that is being evoked from the talking heads. While Chris Carter bemoans the culture that has been created as a result of the encouraged physical violence as a form of punishment, we still have others who refuse to see the real issue. Immediately after Carter's emotional speech in which he courageously said, "my mom was wrong" about the physical violence as a form of punishment, we immediately saw Mike Ditka and Keyshawn Johnson jump in and deny that Carter could possibly be correct. It was the classic defense mechanism, "if it weren't for the fact that my father/mother beat me, I would not be the man I am today." Is this not all too expected?
It is all too ideological and riddled with bad theology. Both Ditka's and Johnson's comments reek of the Christian declaration that all humans are inherently evil until we understand that we need God. Is this not identical to the foundation of child discipline that our culture is built upon? It is the common understanding that your child is going to be a brat unless you take the law into your own hands and hit him or her. To question this common wisdom is identical to heretical questioning of God or foundational theological ideas. Do not both Ditka and Johnson sound similar to the fundamentalist that will not question the idea of Hell or come to terms with the fact that omnipotence and omnibenevolence do not work in light of the world we live in?
They espouse the same thinking as those who think that they deserve Hell. Too often we view our parents as omniscient beings who are infallible. It is not until they do something that breaks our ideological view of them that we begin to see and understand them as people who did their best; and this does not seem to happen until we are already adults. But still, they have a hold over us that prevents total questioning in many cases. So what else are Keyshawn Johnson and Mike Ditka saying when they defend their parent's abusive form of punishment except, "Don't question the Father, he knows better than we ever will." Should we or should we not question the system that allows for Adrian Peterson to defend what he did to his child as a simple spanking that got just a little out of hand? What about a system that allows for hundreds of Ravens fans and people nationwide to stand with Ray Rice and then blame his wife for staying with him?
Perhaps we should listen to what Chris Carter said, understanding the limitations of parenting at the time they did and then understand that they were wrong, but anger solves nothing. But this is also what makes the Rice and Peterson situations so upsetting. They do not have these pardons, if you will allow my apologetic language. My dad has spoken of going to school and seeing his friends covered and black and blue bruises and never understanding that to be wrong of his friends' parents. Then, of course, this style is passed on in some way to he and my mother. Of course I was "paddled" and it was wrong. What cannot be accepted further today is that exact thought. "Of course I was hit/paddled/switched, etc." should end with my generation. In fact, it should have ended long before.
Often it takes seeing ourselves through the guise of the Other to reveal the monstrosity that we are. What the Rice video shows and what the pictures of Adrian Peterson's child reveal is what domestic abuse looks like, and in turn, what we look like. Rice may be extreme, but Peterson was just "spanking" his child. Why have people reacted so against it? Because that would be their only defense as well. I was only hitting my child, forgive me, I know not what I did.