1. Related to absolutely nothing anyone is currently thinking about...I was re-watching “Spotlight” to remind myself that the news media sometimes does its job, and again was reminded how Hollywood constantly makes Americans more ignorant by its sheer arrogance and laziness. The film, which reasonably accurately recounts how the Boston Globe’s investigative “Spotlight” team broke the story of the extensive Catholic Church cover-up of pedophile priests, a scandal still unfolding now, 20 years later, has a scene in which a lawyer who represents the victims of such priests tells a reporter that he’s effective because he’s an “outsider.” “I’m Armenian,” he says. “How many Armenians do you know in Boston?” Having been brought up in Boston, I know that the answer to this question is “A LOT.” Boston was a center of Armenian immigration at the turn of the 20th Century, and its Armenian community, in the city and especially the suburbs, is huge and influential. There are many Armenian organizations as well. In Arlington, Mass., where my family lived, Armenian-Americans were prominent in business and government. The little side street where we lived, Brunswick Road, had ten families living on it: the Marshalls, the Gares, and the Moreland, the Zeffs (who were Jewish, then two Sakoians, the Nazarians, the Catherians, the Berbarians, and the Masmanians. Just Googling “Boston Armenian conmmunity” would have let the film-makers know the scene was nonsense, and they couldn’t be bothered.
2. And speaking of sexual predators…the cover-up of sexual predators in the coaching ranks for Olympic sports is being exposed slowly but surely. Last month a lawsuit was filed against Richard Callaghan, an elite American figure skating coach best known for coaching Tara Lipinski to an Olympic gold medal in 1998 and coaching Todd Eldredge to a world title and six national championships. The suit alleges ongoing sexual abuse of one skater that endured over two decades. Callaghan’s victims were male, not female, but the story is familiar: parents guilelessly entrust their talented athletic children to mentor/coaches in swimming, skating, and gymnastics, without considering for a moment what attracts many of these people to working with children and teens.
Another sport that is coming to terms with a sexual predator is equestrian competition. George Morris, an Olympics equestrian coach known as a “kingmaker” for his success with riders, was barred for life from the sport by the United States Equestrian Federation based on an investigation of alleged sexual misconduct He is now facing lawsuits filed this month by two people claiming that he raped them as teenagers. Jimmy Williams, another riding coach who guided many Olympians and was also named in a lawsuit by a woman who said Williams had sexually assaulted her from the ages of 12 to 17. Though Williams died in 1993, he was recorded as barred for life from the federation in 2018—yes, a dead man was banned for life— after an investigation by The New York Times revealed accusations by nearly a dozen women, including the Olympian Anne Kursinski, that he had preyed upon them as girls.
Parents are so desperate to live vicariously through their offspring that they willingly hand their kids over to the care of predators. I’m sorry to say this, but absent thorough, thorough investigation, it is irresponsible to trust these coaches. The history and what we know of human nature presents too much of a risk.
The same applies to allowing children to work in professional theater, TV, and movies.
3. Well THIS is awkward… The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. has been swamped with accusations of racism, discrimination and harassment. This month the museum released a report from an external review, which stated that “racism is pervasive and systemic within the institution.,” and the institution is devoted to documenting the history of human rights.
Since in the throes of the George Floyd Freakout, the term “racism” is being wielded as a weapon of power even more than usual, often with scant connection to the meaning of the word, I would normally be skeptical. However, the accusations against the museum seem well-grounded, in at least one significant respect, the museum engaged in inexcusable hypocrisy. It was the museum’s practice to have its guidesskip the exhibit on the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada during tours for religious schools and for guests who objected to the content.
4. Meanwhile, at an American museum… The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois has cancelled the tour of its exhibition on domestic terrorism that has been displayed since 2006 all over the country. “Visitors of color”—whatever that’s supposed to mean– have complained that several of the displays were outdated an inappropriate. One complaint involves how three Ku Klux Klan robes, two adult and one child-size, are displayed in a section called “HATE 1865-PRESENT.”
Kathryn Harris, a Lincoln museum board member (“of color”) called the presentation of the Klan robes “unnecessarily jarring.” “They hit you in the face as soon as you walk in,” she said. “There’s a warning that says ‘Sensitive Material,’ but ‘Offensive Material’ would have been a better choice of words.” How about “Material that shows just how evil these damn white people are”?
“I think people are realizing the emotional impact that seeing reminders of oppression has on people of color,” Erin Thompson, an art historian who studies the destruction of cultural heritage (and who has approved statue-toppling during the George Floyd Freakout), said. “What had been thought of as a merely educational display is now recognized as something that can reopen traumas.”
Doris Turner, a Springfield City Council member (“of color”) said that she was troubled that the exhibit only focused on negative aspects of the Black Panthers—you know, like the fact that it was racist, engaged in terrorism and killed people. “There were some glaring omissions that didn’t provide some of the most positive aspects” of the group, she said. After all, the Black Panthers had tutoring and food distribution programs! (See Rationalization #21. Ethics Accounting, or “I’ve earned this”/ “I made up for that”)
Alexis Albion, the curator of special exhibits at the Spy Museum who helped create the show in 2005, said that this was the first time objections had been raised about it. It had previously been displayed at 20 institutions, including the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. Yes, but that was before The Great Stupid.
As long as any criticism or rebuttal of an argument made by a person “of color” is going to be dismissed as proof of the racism of the advocate of the opposing opinion and of “systemic racism” generally, I don’t see how any such exhibit can be created or shown again.