Americans revel in violence. We have an excuse for almost any kind of violent or oppressive act. When a young boy poking around, on a dare, in what he thought was an abandoned house was shot dead by my neighbor last year, the boy was vilified as a threat and the trigger happy crazy guy lauded as a hero, by my other neighbors. Why would that be? Earlier this week, an event happened in a nearby town that helps us to understand the sorry state our culture has attained.
During a high school basketball game between local teams Shakopee and Prior Lake, a “fan” ran onto the basketball court twice, interrupting the game. While he did this, his buddies were elsewhere in the gym throwing eggs at people. During his second interruption, the “fan” grabbed the basketball from a player preparing for a foul shot, and started taking layups. That is when activities director John Janke violently tackled the fan, bringing him to the ground.
Janke is now a hero in the local press. I beg to differ. Let me tell you why.
OK, in some kind of objective sense, if a person acts like a total ass, bad things that happen to them are their own fault. Frankly, I sometimes have a hard time feeling deeply sorry for a person who wields a gun, refuses to drop it, and is killed by police when the gun turns out to be fake. If you point a gun at armed individuals of any kind and threaten them, and they kill you, then you are asking for it.
At the same time I am perfectly capable of feeling remorse (at some distance, of course) for the individual, the family, as well as the cop (this hypothetical squirt gun wielding ass may be the only person this cop has to kill in his/her career).
So what does any of this have to do with a drugged-out fool being tackled by an activities director? In this case, an adult who works for a school carried out an act of violence against a young person. Perhaps it was justified, perhaps it was not. The proper way to address this issue is to ask that question, investigate, take appropriate measures, and carry on. But this is not what is happening.
Instead, the events are being framed by the press and others to ensure that the violent act is seen as an act of heroism, regardless of any pertaining reality. And, more disturbingly, the psychological toolkit being brought into play is that of fear and a sense of lack of security, which in turn is part of our new Post 911 world. Even worse, post911think has become part of our normal, daily, cultural fabric, and it should not be.
This is the statement made by the activities director:
Janke told the Prior Lake American he did what he thought was necessary “to maintain the integrity of the game and hopefully maintain a safe environment and get the situation under control as quickly as possible.”1
This attitude is echoed in the trope of the YouTube video shown below, and the local press coverage. In fact, the local Fox news station went through pains to do this. The only video they had was the YouTube bit, which does not show the young man who interrupted the game doing anything bad (other than being on the court), then getting very violently tackled by the big man in the red shirt. The news reporters made sure to tell the audience that this video is very misleading because it does not show how badly behaved this young man was. Admitting that the video may seem to show the activities director over-reacting, he really, really, was not . And so on.
Imagine that. Fox news explaining that a video may be biased and not tell the whole story. Is your “motivation detector” going off the charts?
Now, lets more closely examine the reasons the activities director’s actions were necessary, according to the activities director himself, and as verified and supported by the news reporting:
1) to maintain the integrity of the game;
2) to maintain a safe environment; and
3) to get the situation under control quickly.
I admit that if getting the situation under control fast is a valid goal, then tackling the guy was probably the best thing to do, because from the reports (however biased) we do have, this kid was not going to let up on the shenanigans easily. I question, however, the need to do this “quickly.” There are often ways to achieve quickness that are not considered appropriate. Most car chases by police can be ended quickly in a hail of bullets, but this is hardly ever done any more, for various reasons, often good reasons. If quick requires violence, then one needs to question quick.
Maintaining the integrity of the game is always a good idea. Maintaining the integrity of anything is a good idea, I suppose. But what is the connection between an outsider running on to the court and the integrity of the game? In a town not very far from this incident, the director of a local athletics association was recently caught stealing over $40,000 from the donations made by supporters. That is an issue of integrity of the process. If some of the teenagers on the actual basketball team were pumping up on steroids, or date raping cheerleaders, or cheating on the court, that would be a matter of integrity. There is not an integrity issue here, so I don’t think “maintaining the integrity of the game” can be cited as a valid reason for resorting to violence.
Number 2 is the real bugaboo in this list of excuses. The athletic director violently tackled the young man to the ground in order to maintain a safe environment. Somewhere in the homeland security office manual, I imagine an entry for the proper instantiation of a SEMO (safe environment maintenance operation). Perhaps there was a memo sent out to activities directors nation wide. Orange alert. Apply SEMO procedures where necessary.
This rather large red-shirted activities director could not know, of course, if this teenager was, for instance, al Qaeda. The child’s antics could have been a distraction for a terrorist operation happening in the locker room. Or he might have been trying to distract attention away from the cash box, where maybe some black guys were trying to pull off a heist. Or, maybe he was a drugged out hippie or, egads, an anti-war Democrat. In any event, tackling the villain is the best thing to do. To maintain a safe environment. Quickly. And with integrity.
I don’t use Sudaphed. It does not do much for me. But the other day I went to buy an over the counter medication for my wife, which included Sudaphed. In Minnesota, you have to sign for such things so they can later figure out if you are a running a meth lab. Fine. But it is also true, at Target, anyway, that there is a very large poster, next to the clipboard where you sign for the cold pills, explaining that if you put down the wrong phone number, name, or address on the form you are subject to extensive fines and jail time, under the Patriot Act. That is because the underlying assumption behind the Patriot Act is this: If you defy authority then you are al Quaeda.
Similarly, if you are a drunk asshole at a basketball game and you go out and take the ball from one of the squeaky clean all American players, you are al Qaeda. And if you are a large activities director named John Janke, and you tackle the ass to the ground, you are saving all the fans and players, and especially the cheerleaders, from a fate worse than freedom….
Thank you for your service, Mr. Janke.
Here is the video: