Very few articles I have read about an alleged rape possibly involving members of the Duke University Lacrosse team have mentioned the words “right” or “wrong,” “character,” or “morality.” Instead, we’re being treated to a steady diet of references to race, class, patterns of masculine power over women, wealth, and entitlement. Perhaps any or all of these variables are involved in this case, but one thing is certain, character, or the lack of it, is certainly involved.
When young men act out excessive macho scenarios they are demonstrating the immaturity of their character. When coaches wink at exceptional athletes’ moral misadventures it’s a matter of weak character. When student athletes hammer themselves into drunken oblivion it’s about misguided character. When women willingly participate in paid erotic dancing they evidence cracks in their character. When women and men place themselves in sexually charged situations it’s all about limited character.
If a student athlete’s character is well grounded and well established, he or she will not participate in ethically, morally, or legally questionable activities. Wholesome character considers race, class, and wealth simply interesting variations in the human universe, not sources of ego, intolerance, or bigotry. Individuals with mature moral character will not harm others of the opposite sex, nor will they look at life through the lens of entitlement. People with character just don’t act that way, and they don’t require more laws, police officers, campus speech or behavior codes, or sensitivity training to know how to live above reproach.
Character matters. We learned that watching the O.J. Simpson trial, when we learned about President Clinton and “that woman,” when we heard about Kobe Bryant’s Colorado “consensual sex,” when we grieved at what happened at Abu Grhaib, and when we discovered a few businessmen’s greed could hurt the pension plans of hundreds of thousands of people and put thousands of others out of work. Recovering a respect for character in all parts of our culture is, today, a near crisis need.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
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