[I've decided to make this a multi-part story. I have a lot yet to write, and I also think a series of articles would better position me for a Pulitzer. I'll leave the "work in progress" intro, as it provides an overview of the topic.]
[This is a work in progress. I'll finish it later tonight or tomorrow morning. I just felt like posting this part of it now. Our media will say anything to create or prolong a lurid story, all in the interest of profit. Distort, exaggerate, demolish a man's reputation -- who cares as long as those cash registers are ringing. Maybe you disagree with Peterson's parenting methods, but tell me, is it better for a child to get a few switchings growing up, or to zombie his way through life stuffed full of ritalin? Which is the real abuse? It's a question worth asking. Anyway, there's a difference between child abuse and a personal distaste for spanking. The New York Times would rather destroy a man's reputation than derail a story with level-headed reporting.]
Daddy’s in the big chair sippin’ on a cold beer
Grandma’s cuttin’ a switch
She overheard Mary cussin’ her brother
Called him a son of a bitch
She got a good green limb off a sweet gum sapling
Man that’s bound to sting
But Mary don’t cry just stands there and takes it
Doesn’t seem to feel a thing
No Mary don’t cry, you know she’s a big girl
Wonder what made her so mad
She takes those licks looking in through the den door
Staring right straight at her dad
From “Memorial Day” by James McMurtry
The New York Times doesn’t think “switch” is evil enough, so they’ve taken to using “branch.” Adrian Peterson didn’t spank his child with a switch, he struck him with a damned tree branch!
The revelation that Adrian Peterson, the Vikings’ All-Pro running back, faces child abuse charges for beating his 4-year-old son with a tree branch (“switch” is such a polite word), and that the league intends to let him play on Sunday, has pushed a few high-rolling corporate sponsors into a reasonable facsimile of concern.
And you thought the New York Times was constrained by things like facts and word definitions.
Here are the first online definitions I found for “switch”:
- A slender, flexible shoot, rod, etc., used especially in whipping or disciplining. (Dictionary.com)
- A slender flexible whip, rod, or twig. (Merriam-Webster.com)
- A slender flexible rod, stick, or twig, especially one used for whipping. (thefreedictionary.com)
- A slender flexible shoot cut from a tree. (oxforddictionaries.com)
- A stick that is so thin that you can bend it easily. (MacmillanDictionary.com)
I think you get the point. A “switch” is… a switch. A “branch,” on the other hand, conjures up those big things that seem to regularly fall out of trees in Central Park, killing and maiming people. I’m pretty sure the guys at the New York Times have heard about those incidents. After all, they’ve cost New York City $11.5 million.
So, New York Times, let’s be sure not to associate Adrian Peterson with a grandmother switching her granddaughter as in the James McMurtry song. No, no, let’s use the word “branch” to subliminally suggest an image of, oh, I don’t know, Paul Bunyan pummeling a kid with a redwood tree.
It’s not just that one writer (Michael Powell). Here is another awkward refusal (Pat Borzi and Steve Eder) to simply use the appropriate word, “switch”:
Peterson is accused of injuring his son while disciplining him with a tree branch, commonly known as switch, last May in Spring, Tex.
That’s not even written correctly. Poor grammar aside, calling a switch a branch is like a carpenter calling a 2×4 a tree trunk. “Bring me another tree trunk, Ernie.”
Here’s another (Ken Belson):
The team said that Peterson, who was accused of disciplining his son with a switch, or a small tree branch, would be placed on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list and would have to stay away from all team activities.
Three articles, four writers. Pretty clearly the New York Times wants to use the word “branch.”
The USA Today also seems befuddled by such an outlandish word as “switch”:
They say Peterson [Adrian's father] whipped his children and some of their friends with a belt or a tree branch known as a “switch.”
Are there really people who don’t know what a switch is? If I didn’t, and read that description, I’d come away thinking a switch weighed ten pounds and put to a man’s head would leave him unconscious. Again, hardly the switch grandma hit Mary with in the James McMurtry song.
This is important because switching a child as a disciplinary action doesn’t sound like “child abuse” at all. Whacking a kid with a branch does, though. Like hitting them with a baseball bat. The New York Times doesn’t casually choose one word over another; they are clearly trying to paint Peterson in the worst possible light.
No one likes why-when-I-was-a-kid stories, but here’s mine. I got paddled in school with a board far heftier than any switch off a sapling. Today’s media would say I was “beaten” and suffered “child abuse.” If I were famous, I could go on Oprah. Along with pretty much every other male member of my graduating class.
Getting spanked with a switch stings like hell. It leaves marks. It can even draw blood, though not as much as a scraped knee or elbow. But a switch is not going to do any lasting damage.
To throw Peterson into the category of “child abuser” is massively inappropriate and unfair. Child abusers burn children with cigarettes, and lock them in closets and basements, and chain them to beds, and slug and punch and slap and kick them. They leave them in parked cars or at home while they go get high or drunk.
Why is Adrian Peterson being threatened with prison time for deliberately spanking his child with a switch, something that has been commonly done for ages, and is still commonly done?
I have an answer. Ray Rice got into an elevator with his future wife. A few seconds later, he dragged her out of the elevator, unconscious. The NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, pretended not to know what happened in the elevator. They did next to nothing, telling Rice he had to ride the bench for two games. TMZ released a video showing the actual KO punch and — boom — the world changed.
Now Goodell is scrambling to maintain his ridiculously high-paying job ($44 million last year) by over-reacting to things he would have covered up a year ago. If keeping his job means booting Adrian Peteronson out of the league, tough shit. $44 million is real money.
There is also an ugly strangeness to the indictment against Peterson. It seems a grand jury initially declined to indict Peterson, then the Rice video came out, and it became all the rage to go after those horrible NFL barbarians. That’s when a second-attempt grand jury indicted Peterson.
Some in the media seem to have already convicted Peterson of child abuse for spanking his child with a switch. Today Keith Olbermann made a comment about Peterson, saying the Vikings barring Peterson from team activities meant he could “spend more time with his kids, God help them.”
Bear in mind that Peterson disciplined the child for pushing another child off of a bike, an action which could have caused far more harm than a switch
(still not finished… to be continued…)