On Spanking, Abuse, and Speaking Up

And why this conversation matters.

Another word. Another letter. Another article. Another celebrity who should shut up. Another angry, self-righteous cable news anchor putting their stamp on one side of an opinion. Another set of eyes rolling.

Hot button topics bring out the nastiness in us. They ignite vitriol and incite hate speech. The news cycle only adds to the divisiveness of the argument. The sides are quickly determined and the ugliest parts of humanity can then be found in the internet comments sections. I’m sure most of us would be shocked to see the real faces hiding behind those angry keyboards. The safety of anonymity brings out the butcher when it comes to opinion.

I habitually steer clear of the fight. But I do listen. Often cringing. Somehow I managed two years on a national morning show where I was not only allowed my opinion but encouraged to defend it from any disagreeable co-host, and I stayed out of controversy. I’m well documented in my stance on a variety of things but I’m also not an issue warrior. The noise of too many opinions gets in the way of real progress. Mad voices launch off Facebook feeds like water balloons off pirate ships. I believe listening and allowing oneself the opportunity to be moved or convinced to a new way of thinking about a topic makes for a more intelligent, smoother resolution. But then again, I’m also speaking of a culture that celebrates shallow, empty entertainment and treats sporting events like religion and religion like fact.

Perhaps you’ve been busy, but two of the biggest items percolating at the top of newsroom rundowns are both stories of abuse at the hands of two high profile athletes in the National Football League. Though the incidents were unrelated, they both carry some common genes. Big money stars committing acts of domestic abuse: Ravens running back Ray Rice decking his fiancee, knocking her unconscious in an elevator and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson arrested on charges of child abuse. Thankfully there is video and photographic evidence in each case making judgement, both public and official, easier to determine. The end does not justify the means. The excuses are marginalized at best. Guilt is assigned. You did that, buster.

The case of Ray Rice has become a three act play. He was caught on camera, but downplayed the event. He was defended, fiercely, by his team, his city and his fantasy football owners. The league slapped him with a small punishment and the story appeared to be over. But then… cue the dramatic music… a new video emerged shedding light on the truth of what happened. It was more brutal than anything we see on any given Sunday.

Until that second video, the defense had sounded something like “private matter between two adults” and “alcohol was to blame”. Those arguments lost their validity. What Ray Rice did to Janay Palmer is inexcusable. What remains of their relationship is now a private matter as they did follow through with the marriage.

The NFL is currently mired in a finger-pointing, coverup scandal about what they really knew. It’s an entirely separate conversation but it all boils down to money and star power. The irony is, the entertainment news source TMZ, which I feel falls under the aforementioned “shallow entertainment” category, is the organization that broke the story of the second video, subsequently questioning the actions of the NFL. It’s a story that continues to grow. I’m glad there are watchdog groups everywhere championing fairness, but the NFL thing is just like US politics and other corporate industries: money, money, money. They will dodge and cover until something has to give and it will most likely be commissioner Roger Goodell who steps down.

As for Adrian Peterson’s story, it also had two different faces. The first one was one of familiarity. The headlines reported the number one running back in the league was arrested and released on child abuse charges. It was said he used a wooden spoon as a “switch”. Instantly visions of our own childhood came to mind. Getting in trouble with Granny, switches and fly swatters and belts and yard sticks… we were beaten with an array of things weren’t we? Was it right? Was Adrian? Was Ray? No.

Enter my opinion.

I believe Ray Rice has probably been a good and decent human being most of his life. But it is obvious he has a problem. It was within him to do this. I’ve been drunk once or twice and never have I come close to hitting a woman (Or spitting on her. Ray did that too.). If he wants to remain a public figure, a football star, and by proxy, a role model, then earn it again. After serving time and following through with programs and donations, we gave quarterback Michael Vick another shot after his fall from grace. Ray needs to do the same. Become a model for change in young men who are on the fence as to whether or not it’s okay to knock a woman around a little if she’s out of line. It’s not. Ever. The lesson being taught right now in this scenario is don’t get caught on camera, which brings me to the second face of Adrian Peterson’s situation.

The photographic evidence changes the story dramatically. The sheriff’s office photos prove child abuse beyond a shadow of a doubt. The cuts and bruises were not life threatening but certainly life damaging. The excuse of “I was raised that way,” or “Momma whooped me too,” and the whole scared straight parenting method that underpins Adrian Peterson’s defense and the support of those that back him, doesn’t work. It’s just perpetuating the problem. Do I believe he wanted to maliciously hurt his child? No. Is it possible he lost it and went way beyond the pale of a tap on the tush. Yes. Parenting is incredibly frustrating and it’s natural to want to knock some sense into somebody, no matter how small of an asshole they are. I believe in spanking, but I know the difference and when to call it beating. A light pop on the rear letting them know Momma or Poppa Bear is not pleased is different than picking them up by the arm and whaling on their butt as they swing like a pendulum.

Parents who go too far, such as in Adrian’s case, need to watch this story and pay attention to what is said. Some parents out there need to think about what’s no longer acceptable in terms of punishment. We know what this kind of treatment does to children and how it manifests later in life. I doubt Adrian Peterson’s kid is going to rob banks when he’s older. He might even win the Heisman (pops came in 2nd). I’m not saying that everyone who got spanked too hard as a kid turns into a mass murderer. But maybe think about it when you are spanking your child. Is it more about teaching a lesson or does it feel kinda good to release that tension by walloping your kid a few times? And before you get upset with me trying to tell you how to be a parent (or treat your lady) let me handle that too.

Yes, that is your child. You can “Bill Cosby” me all day long with how you “brought it into the world and you can take it out”. I got that speech as a kid too, but I knew my dad was kidding. It’s a humorous angle on raising children. And while it may very well be your child now, someday it will be my neighbor. And, speaking on behalf of the neighborhood, we would like it if you wouldn’t release troubled head-cases into society. I realize what I’m asking may send psychologists into an uproar as I’m chopping away at a potential future client base, but I’m all about getting it right the first time.

Maybe you think this isn’t important because you got spanked “just right” when you were a kid and you’re going to continue that line of parenting since it worked for you. Awesome. If you really believe that deep down inside then by all means, please continue. But some people out there, both men and women (but mostly dudes) are too aggressive. We are ALL responsible for the safety of others. Discuss it. Think about it. See it. Recognize it. And most importantly say something, even at the risk of someone else disagreeing and rolling their eyes.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Lance Smith’s story.