Another Week Ends

Click here to listen to the accompanying episode of The Mockingcast. 1) Hard not to […]

Click here to listen to the accompanying episode of The Mockingcast.

1) Hard not to start off with this amazing story of grace in practice, of an accused criminal sentenced to 24 hours in jail, and accompanied the whole time by his judge. The Washington Post tells the story of Green Beret veteran Sgt. Joseph Serna and District Court Judge Lou Olivera, and the Veterans Treatment Court over which he presides. The story describes Serna’s three tours of duty, the friends he lost, the multiple times he almost died himself. And the consequential PTSD he faces today.

While Serna’s years in combat earned him three Purple Hearts and other military accolades, like many combat vets, he’s been unable to leave the battlefield behind him. Since returning to the U.S., the decorated Green Beret has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, WTVD reported, and been charged with driving under the influence.

He entered the veteran’s treatment court program in Cumberland County, N.C., over which state District Court Judge Lou Olivera presides.

Serna has fought to stay sober, appearing before Olivera 25 times to have his progress reviewed. He confessed to Olivera that he lied about a recent urine test last week, according to WRAL.

In response, Olivera sentenced Serna to one day in jail. The judge drove Serna to the jail in a neighboring county.

“When Joe first came to turn himself in, he was trembling,” Olivera told the Fayetteville Observer. “I decided that I’d spend the night serving with him.”

On the flip side of the forgiveness spectrum we have Johnny Football, who has sort of been the NFL spectacle this draft week, mainly for the stupendous flop he has come to represent in the draft’s history of high publicity. For NFL teams, he is the prime nonexample. A top prospect that became a bottom-class liability. Manziel’s NFL future is uncertain after two seasons of professional failure and personal upheaval, and so his story has become something of a professional sports parable. Not surprisingly, a few articles have come to the surface that take a more compassionate stance. The first one I’ll highlight comes from the New York Times and highlights the cultural phenomenon of the draft itself, and all the NFL Combine hoopla before it, as an expectation-laden cattle yard. And that that’s only the beginning (ht BFG):

After the N.F.L. draft, if the players dare not meet the expectations heaped upon them by teams and fans when they were 21 or 22 years old, they are destined to become the butt of a long-running joke about busts. The misguided hype is seen as a character flaw of the player rather than a misjudgment by teams, analysts or fans — a broken promise in a one-sided relationship.

6a00e54f7fc4c5883301901e8ab238970bManziel is the latest example, playing out in real time as another draft approaches. To read online comments and social media posts about Manziel’s troubles — arrests, parties, rehabilitation — is to explore the underbelly of fandom, dismissive and cruel. Schadenfreude is the flip side of reverence, and perhaps a stronger attraction.

…“Yeah, it could come unraveled,” Manziel’s father, Paul, told ESPN the Magazine in 2013. “And when it does, it’s gonna be bad. Real bad.”

And then, even more powerfully, is Fr. Joshua Whitfield’s piece, writing for the Dallas Morning News, with some insight into the fact that this is no longer a sports story, but a human story, of which our interest and moral scrutiny makes us complicit. Touché.

His is a story of family history and upbringing: of an East Texas wildcatter, cockfighting sort of history. An upbringing by overly-driven parents of a child never given a chance to grow up into a man. It’s a story of the cult of sports and the cult of the child, woven together and raised almost to the status of religion, a religion become abuse in some families, a religion of constant, endless, physically harmful year-round sports shoved down the throats of children for the sake of dreams typically shattered by the age of 18.

His is a story of addiction and violence: of half-hearted rehab, rolled up $20 bills, misdemeanors, and the forebodings of an early death. It’s a story of an epidemic of domestic violence that, actually, we tolerate as much as excoriate, our superficially moral protests really more soothing exorcisms of our own consciences than evidence of genuine concern.

… But in sports as in life, redemption is a powerful and always possible miracle. And that’s what we all should want, his redemption. It’ll make a better story. And it’ll make us better, too.

2) Speaking of addiction, the need for compassion, and the hope for redemption, another beautiful story from the equally parable-inspiring realm of the “wet house.” The Guardian has a longform essay about a house in Ottawa, Canada for late-stage chronic alcoholics that provides hourly (and measured) wine “pours” for its residents to stave off the shakes. Understanding this need creates an environment of compassion and, for many, the program is working. Here’s the philosophy behind it:

“They are so dependent on alcohol that it’s their most basic need,” said Van Herk. “If that need is not being met, nothing else matters for them. It’s hard for other people to get their minds around how severe their addiction is – they feel like they’re going to die. But once that need is met for them, they can start looking at other parts of their life.”

The pour creates trust: here is a system that understands residents’ needs. This system loosens them from their drinking friends. It keeps them away from Listerine. Without the pour, they would stay outdoors, begging or stealing, in danger of losing their feet to frostbite. Indoors, they take their medicine, see their doctors and mental health workers, eat actual food, re-establish contact with their families. Giving free booze to homeless alcoholics sounds crazy. But it may be the key to helping them live a stable life.

3) In other news, this amazing video from Fuller Studio covers the friendship between Eugene Peterson (theologian and mind behind The Message translation) and Bono. Peterson at the end talks about the violence of the Psalms, and “why there is a cross in every room of this house, I don’t want to forget about the violence” (ht HE).

4) From the Atlantic, here is Alana Semuel’s retrospective on her relationship with Choose Your Own Adventure stories. Maybe the “adultescent” phenomenon isn’t so strange after all:

To be sure, the Choose Your Own Adventure books were works of fiction, and it probably wasn’t reasonable of me to take away such deep life lessons from a book likeThe Cave of Time, which has both a spaceship and cavemen on the cover. But as a child who read a lot of books, including Holocaust stories in which the wrong choice could indeed be fatal, I learned to face every choice with the knowledge that there are terrible outcomes possible. “There is never a day in which you are not confronted with choice. Some seemingly small choices can determine the path of the rest of your life,” one of the Choose Your Own Adventure authors, R.A. Montgomery, has said. No pressure or anything.

And, on the subject of adventures—these are pretty great:

5) In the pop culture file, we have some news about the next (and last) Leftovers season. The A/V Club uncovered some David Lynch Twin Peaks commercials. ANNND, maybe it’s too soon, but…Prince Think-Piece Generator.

Oh, yeah, and this gem of an interview Tom Hanks did with Terry Gross this week, about the fear of being found out you were a fraud (ht KM):

Hanks tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross that he felt particularly connected with his character’s sense of self-doubt and dislocation. “No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?’ ” Hanks explains. Despite having won two Academy Awards and appearing in more than 70 films and TV shows, Hanks says he still finds himself doubting his own abilities. “It’s a high-wire act that we all walk,” he says.

“There are days when I know that 3 o’clock tomorrow afternoon I am going to have to deliver some degree of emotional goods, and if I can’t do it, that means I’m going to have to fake it,” Hanks says. “If I fake it, that means they might catch me at faking it, and if they catch me at faking it, well, then it’s just doomsday.”

6) Finally, and you’ll probably hear more about this next week, a long (and well-worth-your-time) essay at Vox about the style of smugness in the liberal circles—its roots and its reasons. The article describes the characteristic attitude of contempt the Left has used to deflect the rift it experienced from the American laborer in the last 20 years. Rather than reach out, the Left has ridiculed the “uninformed,” and used talking heads on TV to buffer the impulse. The result, of course, as we know it in politics (and in our personal daily life), is not productive. Our defensiveness only creates wider rifts, and the Left’s isolation became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

…by the 1990s the better part of the working class wanted nothing to do with the word liberal. What remained of the American progressive elite was left to puzzle: What happened to our coalition?Why did they abandon us?

The smug style arose to answer these questions. It provided an answer so simple and so emotionally satisfying that its success was perhaps inevitable: the theory that conservatism, and particularly the kind embraced by those out there in the country, was not a political ideology at all.

…As anybody who has gone through a particularly nasty breakup knows, disdain cultivated in the aftermath of a divide quickly exceeds the original grievance. You lose somebody. You blame them. Soon, the blame is reason enough to keep them at a distance, the excuse to drive them even further away.

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One response to “Another Week Ends: A Compassionate Judge, Johnny Football, Smug Liberalism, Choose Your Own Failure, Alcoholic Wine, and Hobbes & Me”

  1. Zach says:

    Apparently the author of the Vox article has never been to a Federalist Society convention or a College Republicans gathering or an Evangelical megachurch or suffered through reading Russell Kirk and Bill Buckley.

    The Kevin Williams shout-out is most shocking, almost unbelievably so, in light of this:

    This is a meme that needs to die.

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