Posted by: wordofexcellence | June 5, 2012

Spelling, Death, Abuse – Some Reflection

I have lots of things to discuss. I picked up USA Today for May 31 and find that people can’t spell. I’m shocked! I see, slightly above that story, that Jerry Sandusky, the now-infamous former coach at Penn State, is about to go to trial on the allegations of his sexual abuse of children. I peek at page 3, which has a story virtually equivalent to the Trayvon Martin story from Florida. This one is from Phoenix, Arizona, where a young Hispanic man was shot and killed by  a young Black man. Once again, we see the “stand your ground” law protecting the shooter.

So where do I begin? Do I discuss the misspelling of words (or is it “miss spelling uf wurds”?). Mind you, the National Spelling Bee is about to crown a champion, so of course the newspaper’s powers that be had to create a new word for the occasion, calling the contestants “spellebrities.”  Shall I expound on the mistreatment of children, who in their innocence take the kindness of a “fatherly” football coach for granted and then suffer in silence and shame as they are defiled? Or maybe we need to begin with the ridiculousness of a law that prevents police from investigating a shooting to deduce what action to take.

I’m kind of tired of foolishness myself.

 So guess what! I’m beginning with the way people conduct themselves on the roads of this great nation. While wending my way home this afternoon after a brief excursion, I found a red light in front of me, at which I stopped. The line of demarcation beyond which I could not tread was at least 8 to 10 feet in front of me, providing those who might be turning in the opposite lane from in front of me a plentiful amount of room to do so.

 To my chagrin, what I experienced instead was a visibly disgruntled driver who, as he passed by, frowned deeply at me, as if I’d taken up precious space that prevented him from driving through my lane on his way to the proper driving lane.

 My query?  What’s up with that? I was taught (and I still remember!) that when I was turning past a stopped car that I had to be ultra-cautious so as not to cause any damage. Of course, I was also taught that you didn’t make nasty faces at other drivers who were well within their proper lanes. But hey, it’s 2012 now, and things are not what they used to be. I guess I ought to be overjoyed that the driver wasn’t chatting or texting on his hand-held device (oh yeah…phone).  Hey, at least he didn’t hit me!

 Then I begin to enter the highway, and instead of granting me some space to enter, the lady driving the minivan slows down in the entry lane, causing me to brake (not to mention the six or seven people behind me, for whom I had obviously been driving too slowly. Oh yeah…it was a sharp curve with a speed limit of 40 and I admit to having been driving at 50. Now why I had to go so slowly is something that even I can’t decipher.

 But (apparently) I digress. The big 3! Yeah, that’s right – the big three stories from USA Today weighed heavy on my mind and I have to deal with those things now.

 Penn State football has long been one of the nation’s most admired college sports programs. “Joe Pa,” as Joe Paterno was widely known, ran what was considered to be a clean program. That connotation stands for no cheating, good education, conservatism (plain white or blue uniforms, for example), a consistency of excellence in winning and attaining a bowl game invitation, and so much more.

 One of his most trusted assistants was Jerry Sandusky. For those of us old enough to have paid attention to college football over the last 40 or so years, the Sandusky name kind of stands out. Jerry wasn’t the only one wearing the surname, and he probably wasn’t the best of the lot, either. But he was a well-known coach until he retired in 1999, and he was quite the philanthropist, having begun the Second Mile program in 1977. The program was intended for “children who need additional support and who would benefit from positive human contact.”

 I don’t happen to believe that “positive human contact” includes taking showers with a man at least twenty years their senior. Yet that’s likely the most benign of the accusations against Sandusky. The trial begins today, June 5. There will apparently be a lack of anonymity for the victims of the heinous acts that he’s been accused of committing.

 I am a firm believer in the justice system of these United States. Here, a person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. When Bernie Fine, the now-former Assistant Coach at Syracuse University, was accused of similar crimes last fall following the Sandusky revelations, I was, frankly, less apt to believe them than I was to believe the allegations made against Sandusky. I attended Syracuse University, and my loyalty to the school is pretty well-known among those who know me.

 Was I somewhat prejudicial in thinking that Fine was innocent while Sandusky was likely guilty?  I admit to feeling more closely aligned to Fine, and to believe in his innocence than I was to believe in Sandusky. I think that makes me somewhat typical in this nation – we stand by the credo of innocent until proven guilty, but we don’t necessarily live the credo.

 I have no idea what the outcome of this case will be. The allegations are quite ugly, and I have noticed a seeming increase in the number of headlines concerning such child abuse since last fall. I simply hope that whatever the results of the court case may be, they’ll be right, and that justice will be served.

 Now: spelling. I am a very good speller, and I’ve always been at the top of that heap, since first or second grade when we’d have our spelling bees in the classroom. It would seem that the newly-crowned Republican candidate for President, Mitt Romney, could have used someone with better eyesight and spelling ability when his campaign called for “A better Amercia.”

 Yeah, I know it was a typographical error. That’s the standard excuse for faulty spelling in our newspapers, in our magazines, in our advertisements, and elsewhere. “Excuse?” you say! Yes, it is merely that – an excuse – because there is a sloth in this country and a protracted learning disability among our people because we would rather say, “U R welcome” rather than the quite correct “You are welcome.”  It’s exasperating, it’s enervating and it’s a shame that we all try to get away with it.

Why, even writers (or those who claim to be writers) will tell us that the mistakes they make “are just typos, after all. It’s not like we don’t know how to spell.”  So that being the case, why are there so many errors? 

Am I grumpy about this assault on the English language?  Yes, I guess you could say that; I’ll politely disagree and shake my head at the simplest of words being misspelled. I suppose I can take heart in the fact that the Scripps National Spelling Bee is still going strong (we’ve had 85 of them now, with no apparent end in sight). Children between the ages of 6 and 15 are capable of deciphering some of the most difficult words. One, a 6-year-old, apparently had no problem with spelling the word “dirigible.” That’s an alien word in our culture, since we haven’t seen one of those vessels in many years. For a second-grader to grasp it is beyond the recognition of most of us. Quite an accomplishment, I’d say.

On to Arizona (the land of Crazy Laws) and all the other states that have this phony law called “Stand your ground” – this is, in my opinion, one of the most egregious laws enacted in our country’s history. In the case I cited above, the young man who ended up shot to death was mentally disabled, and he was out for his usual evening walk with the family’s Labrador, named Lady.

Apparently, the shooter in this case was the driver of a vehicle that almost bumped the young man, who in turn shouted something at the driver. Now here is where the story really gets hairy in my opinion. In the vehicle was his pregnant girlfriend, and the driver maintained that he feared for their lives.

Because he feared for their lives, he pulled out his .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun and shot the pedestrian, who died with his dog’s leash still in his right hand.

Now wouldn’t you think the police could have, at the least, taken the shooter into custody and questioned him at length concerning the death of the pedestrian?  Yeah, you might think so.

Unfortunately (perhaps so for all of us), stand-your-ground laws prevent law enforcement officials from arresting a shooter,  or questioning him about the situation. As long as “I was in fear of my life” is the justification for the use of deadly force, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of a lot more of these shootings.

This is our society in the middle of the year 2012. I’m not as comfortable with it as I used to be. And you won’t find me shouting at looney-tunes drivers when they come to close to my hindquarters as I walk down the street – they might just be packing!

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