We don’t treat people that way.

Today is the day when I enter the football twilight zone. It’s the day that my two beloved teams, Ole Miss and Auburn, play each other. (See my previous post about my football schizophrenia here.) This year, I’m having trouble choosing which one to root for. Their both 3-1!  In some years, I can choose  one by justifying it in one way or another (“this team has already tanked for the year, so I’ll cheer for the other one” or “I can’t stand Orgeron” or “I rooted for such and such last year, so I’ll swap it up”). No really weighty reasons here, but it sure feels weighty around my house. Now the kids are all up in it, so inevitably it divides the whole family. 

It divides the whole family. 

It’s funny with football (to some). But it’s not funny when it comes to the things that really matter. 

This week, football and a more serious issue collided at my alma mater. You might have seen something about it on the news or read something about it on the internet or in the paper. (If you are living under a rock, you might have missed it, sorry.) 

First, I started hearing that some Ole Miss students, freshman I believe, and including some football players, were in attendance at a production of a play put on by the Ole Miss drama department, and that there might have been some rude behavior on the part of some of the students, possibly the football players, and that this behavior may have included some very ugly statements toward the cast regarding the sexual orientation of their characters. 

“Well, that doesn’t sound good, but I’m sure the school will sort it out,” I thought. My heart broke at the prospect that students, simply attempting to convey a message through drama, might have been subjected to such, but I have also learned that when a story involves a “hot button” issue, it is best to wait for the rest of the story. (By the way, if we are ever to have a meaningful dialogue about issues that cause great division, we have got to drop these labels and others.) 

No need. The media got right on it. 

Soapbox alert! 

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The article opens with this: 

“The scene was this: a college play, โ€œThe Laramie Project,โ€ at the University of Mississippi, Tuesday night. Itโ€™s a play about a town in Wyoming and its reaction to the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard, who was tortured, pistol-whipped, tied to a fence and left to die. This weekend marks the 15th anniversary of his attack.

Itโ€™s a play meant to open minds about differences. And now picture this: In the audience Tuesday, allegedly from a group of roughly 20 Ole Miss football players, came heckling, laughing, homophobic slurs.”

I suppose the author thinks because he threw in the word “allegedly” that he’s covered his bases. It’s becoming quite common, the norm in fact, to cover bases rather than to do the work. To churn it out quickly. To write the headline before doing asking the first interview question. That is, if in fact any are asked at all, and if the journalist opts (this used to not be an option) to get the perspective of all involved, not just the ones that support his/her prewritten headline. 

Why let the facts get in the way of a good story, after all? 

But I waited. Waited for more information before forming an opinion. Waited for the school to have an opportunity to do what it needed  to do and weigh in. 

Then this

“After the University of Mississippi investigated allegations that an estimated 20 football players disrupted a university theater production of “The Laramie Project” with “borderline hate speech” on Tuesday night, the university found no evidence that any players used any anti-gay slurs.”

No, I’m not under any illusions. I know full well that the school must protect itself (and thus, there is a self-serving element here) and that just because “the university found no evidence that any players used any anti-gay slurs” doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen. (I am a lawyer, after all.) This isn’t the only article to this effect, however. HottyToddy.com (who apparently actually talked to students on both sides of the coin here, so kudos to them) reported, “Audience members who were sitting in the front row told HottyToddy.com that they did not hear any epithets.” (The article also quotes the students who say they did.) 

What do I know about what happened in that theater? 

Absolutely nothing. 

What I do know:

This makes me sad. 

Incredibly sad. 

No, I don’t know exactly what happened in that theater. There are still a lot of “ifs” out there. But regardless of what did or did not happen, several young people at my alma mater are hurting now. Some drama students, some football players, students that were there, and students that weren’t.  All for different reasons:

IF I found out for certain that one of my children behaved in the manner that the football players and other students are accused of, there would be consequences. Regardless of what the school chose to do, there would be consequences at home. Look, I’m not even ok with “chatter” in a theater. I will pull my kids out of a movie theater in a heartbeat if they can’t be quiet. But pure meanness, for whatever reason, is a much different matter and will not be tolerated in my house, which I deem to encompass any place any of us may be. (Sorry kids, your mom has some experience with being different. She wasn’t part of the popular crowd. You’ll have to ask your dad about that.) 

Because we don’t treat people that way. 

IF I found out that my child had actually not participated in this “alleged” act, but yet a reporter felt the need to drag my child’s name through the mud before he had all the facts, I WOULD BE ANGRY. 

Because we don’t treat people that way. 

My initial reaction would probably be to show up at his door at 2 a.m. and give him a piece of my mind. And a punch in the gut. And a summons for a lawsuit. I hope, however, that I have taught my children enough about Jesus, that they would restrain me from doing so, and tell me not to.

Because we don’t treat people that way. 

I do think it is fortunate that a person like Hugh Freeze is at the helm on the football side during a time like this. From all observations, he and his staff have been and will continue to be excellent leaders for a group of young men who have a great deal of pressure placed on them. Plus, and this may sound all pie-in-the-sky, but I really believe Freeze cares about Ole Miss. All of Ole Miss – all of the students, and everyone associated with it. Let’s give him the room and opportunity to be the leader we need. 

Look, all of the IFs give me pause. I feel despair on a daily basis watching the ways we tear each other down. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, or any of them. But Jesus and my parents taught me to love people. Period. 

I love you all, and I hurt with you all. And I suspect much of the Ole Miss family feels the same. Hotty Toddy!

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