A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

If you’ve had a toddler in your house at any time in the past 40 years you’ve probably heard of Alexander. His terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day is the topic of an award-winning children’s book that teaches kids how to cope when they have one of those days when everything goes wrong. Alexander wakes up with gum in his hair, gets pushed in the mud, is forced to eat lima beans for dinner and watches a favorite marble go down the drain during bath-time. Alexander decides to move to Australia until his mother explains that everyone has bad days, even people who live in Australia.

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Alexander’s mom is right, isn’t she? We all have bad days. On those days when we have the reverse Midas touch–everything we touch turns to crap–we can choose to react with grace and equanimity. Or we can choose to react like Alexander (who as a small child may have a legitimate excuse). How did you react to your last terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? Let’s say you reacted badly, like Alexander and children often do. Now imagine that your embarrassing, child-like temper tantrum makes national news.

That’s the sticky situation in which James Beach placed himself last week. He was tired. All he wanted to do was to fly home to Colorado. Employed by a company that builds waste-recycling plants, he was on the final leg of a long business trip back from Moscow. Maybe the Russian airport authorities had been less than friendly to the American businessman. Maybe the ticket agent at the Newark airport was a bit surly when Beach arranged to fly standby back home to Denver. Maybe his bags ended up in Naples instead of Newark. What we do know is that Beach ended up in a middle seat on the Newark-to-Denver flight. We also know that instead of closing his eyes and resting while the plane winged its way toward the Rockies, he put his tray-table down and pulled out his laptop. He had to review that contract with the Russians. To make sure he wasn’t disturbed, he installed the Knee Defender, a device that prevented the passenger in front of Beach from reclining her seat. Except she was tired too. And she really, really wanted to recline her seat. Conflict ensued.

At the request of the flight attendants, Beach removed the device. He claims the other passenger then forcefully reclined her sear, almost shattering his laptop’s screen. That’s when Beach started acting like Alexander. He roughly returned the seat-back to the full-upright position and re-installed his Knee Defender. His fellow passenger reacted like an Alexandra: she threw a cup of soda in his face. The flight attendant quickly moved the woman to another seat, but Beach didn’t stop. He re-directed his ire toward the flight attendants, saying what he says were “bad words”. The pilot then re-directed the plane to Chicago where Beach and his fellow passenger were re-directed off the plane. (No word on whether they shared cocktails at an O’Hare bar.) Beach was not going to get home to Denver that night after all.

Then his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day got even worse. The Associated Press picked up the story and ran it nationally. Beach instantly became the poster-boy for bad airline-passenger behavior. Years ago Andy Warhol warned us that in the future everyone would be famous for 15 seconds. Beach was getting his 15 seconds–and then some.

What would I do if my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day was splashed over headlines all across the country? Would I accept responsibility for my bad behavior? I could do worse than follow the example of James Beach. In a follow-up story, Beach didn’t trash his on-board adversary. He didn’t make excuses about frayed nerves from a long business trip. Instead he told the Associated Press: “I’m pretty ashamed and embarrassed by what happened. I could have handled it so much better.”

Careful readers of this blog will note, however, that Beach’s response wasn’t perfect. He could have used his 15 seconds of fame to give us all an A+ acceptance-of-responsibility lesson. How about these suggestions, Mr. Beach?

  • “Happened” is an acceptance-of-responsibility red flag. Blizzards happen. Cyclones happen. They’re no ones fault. What went down on that Newark to Denver flight did not just happen. It’s something you did. Would it have been better to say this? “I’m pretty ashamed and embarrassed by what I did.” Or better yet: “I’m pretty ashamed and embarrassed that I did the same thing to my fellow passenger that she did to me: forcefully re-position her seat. And then I made things worse by yelling and swearing at the flight attendants. They were just doing their job and trying to clean up the mess that I had helped to create.”
  • And how about an apology to your fellow passenger? An apology does not mean that the person to whom I’m apologizing was without fault. That’s because an apology is not about what she did; it’s about what I did. She need not earn my apology with an acknowledgment of her part in this sorry episode. I need to apologize for what I did wrong, even if she never steps up and takes her fair share of the blame. It’s about me and what I did.
  • And of course an “I’m so sorry” is needed for the flight attendants who were only trying to make everyone of the crowded flight as comfortable as possible.

I’ll give him a B-. And the lesson for me when I have that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day and “lose it” like little Alexander and James Beach–especially if I “lose it” in front of a national audience–is to step up and forthrightly accept responsibility for it. That means admitting what I did without excuse or finger-pointing, apologizing to anyone I’ve wronged, and doing what I can to make things right.

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Used Cars and Politicians

Does anybody really believe it when a used-car salesperson says: “This baby is in top-notch condition–like new!” Or this: “You want a smooth ride? Slip behind the wheel of this peach.” And have you ever been told this: “Nobody beats our prices. Nobody.”

One would be foolish to take the vague claims of a used-car salesperson literally. In the climax of the 1980 comedy classic Used Cars, a villainous used-car lot was suing the good-guy lot in court for claiming that it had a huge inventory, “a mile of cars!” The heroes had to scramble and assemble a parade of cars literally a mile long in order to defeat the false-claim lawsuit and keep their lot from falling into the hands of the ruthless bad guys. What made it funny was the absurdity of the premise: If a used car lot actually did advertise “A Mile of Cars!”, no one would take the claim literally and it wouldn’t provide the basis for a lawsuit.

I’m not picking on the used-car crowd; people selling other products exaggerate too. There’s even a legal principle that protects them when they do so. It’s basic contract law that a buyer cannot reasonably rely on the imprecise claims a seller makes about a product. The law calls it “puffing”, reasoning that a buyer has got to expect a bit of exaggeration during the sales pitch.

I mean no disrespect to people who sell cars for a living, but doesn’t that principle apply to politicians too? One would be equally foolish if one took a politician’s statements as the gospel-truth or believed all the promises made during the election campaign. Just as buyers must reasonably expect some “puffing” from a seller, so we must expect hyperbole from those seeking our votes. One of the plot lines in Used Cars involves the good-guy used-car salesman (played by Kurt Russell) running for State Senate. He must have thought it would be an easy transition.

But there’s a line that must not be crossed. Whether you sell cars for a living or you’re a politician selling yourself, you shouldn’t lie and you shouldn’t make outright misstatements of fact. This, for example, is one of the fraudulent techniques employed by an ace salesman in Used Cars.

If I’m buying a used car, I should be able to expect that my salesperson won’t lie to me, claiming that I’ve just run over his precious pet dog Toby. And if a politician states a fact, I should be able to expect that the politician is not lying about that “fact” or has at least checked things out enough to be reasonably sure that her factual assertion is correct.

All of this brings me to the Supreme Court’s recent controversial birth-control decision and Nancy Pelosi. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that Hobby Lobby did not have to offer post-conception birth control to its employees under its health-insurance plan because the family members who own the business have a sincere religious belief that life begins at conception. (Hobby Lobby objected to four things, among them the “morning after” pill and an IUD that prevents implantation of the fertilized egg.) This was Ms. Pelosi’s response: “Really, we should be afraid of this court.  The five guys who start determining what contraceptions are legal. Let’s not even go there.”

The decision, of course, did not make post-conception birth control illegal. The Court’s opinion–signed by those “five guys”–actually states that “women … have a constitutional right to obtain contraceptives”, upholding a 49-year-old precedent. Female employees of Hobby Lobby are free to purchase post-conception birth control on their own. Yes, some of those women won’t be able to do so; getting an IUD can be complicated and expensive. Had the ex-Speaker said “The five guys who start limiting a woman’s access to contraceptions”, then no one could complain: the decision certainly does that.

But she didn’t; she said that those five guys determined “what contraceptions are legal”. Big difference. (And she wasn’t the only politician who misrepresented the Hobby Lobby decision. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker column said the Democrat response was “untethered” from the facts.) We should expect Nancy Pelosi to engage in a bit of political bluster and exaggeration. It’s part of her job, after all. But blatant misrepresentations of fact cross the line.

Again, we have a right to expect that a politician has at least checked things out enough to be reasonably sure that her assertion is not a gross misrepresentation of the facts. And if a politician fails to do so, we should expect the politician to accept responsibility, own up to the mistake, apologize for it and set the record straight. Nancy Pelosi didn’t. Instead her spokesman issued a statement that Pelosi “misspoke”. Too tepid. Too little. Not enough.

Would it have been so hard for her to say this:

 I’m sorry. I was so worked up about the Hobby Lobby decision that I didn’t check my facts carefully before I opened my mouth. The points I should have made were that the decision limits a woman’s access to birth control and seems to signal greater limitations from the Court in the future. But that’s not what I said. In mischaracterizing the Court’s opinion, I unnecessarily added fuel to the fire surrounding this topic and misinformed people who have a right to trust that what I say as a public servant is well-researched and true. I’m sorry I let all of you down. I’ll do better in the future.

 

The Laugh Test

This blog is all about accepting responsibility for our poor choices. And, as the blog’s subtitle indicates, part of accepting responsibility is this: no flimsy excuses. But calling an excuse “flimsy” gives some excuses way too much credit. They don’t pass the laugh test. “He couldn’t actually have said this, right?” Well, yes. Yes, he did.

This is where Luis Suarez makes his entrance. A striker on Uruguay’s World Cup team, last week the football star was locked in a fierce battle for position with defender Giorgio Chiellini and proceeded to bite the Italian on his shoulder. Both players fell to the ground, with Chiellini pulling his collar down to reveal obvious teeth marks. None of the four officials on the field saw the incident, but it did not escape the camera’s eye. The bite was referred to FIFA, football’s ruling body, for possible disciplinary action.

And this is where Suarez failed the laugh test. His explanation to FIFA:

In no way it happened how you have described, as a bite or intent to bite. After the impact … I lost my balance, making my body unstable and falling on top of my opponent. At that moment I hit my face against the player leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth.

The 7-member FIFA panel didn’t buy it. Not for a second. “The commission took into account that the offence was made directly against a player while the ball was not in dispute and that the offence was deliberate and intentional and without provocation. He bit the player with the intention of wounding him or at least of destabilising him.” Suarez was kicked out of the World Cup and banned from any FIFA-sanctioned event for four months.

A factor FIFA took into consideration–and one more thing that makes his defense laughable–is this: Suarez is a recidivist biter. He bit opponents on at least two prior occasions, enduring a seven-game suspension by a Dutch league in 2010 and a ten-game suspension by the Premier League–where he is a member of the Liverpool Reds–just last year.

In 1997 Mike Tyson bit off a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear during a heavyweight title fight and spit it out on the ring floor. (Curiously, the referee did not stop the fight until the next round when Tyson bit Holyfield’s other ear.) At least Tyson had the decency to admit the bites, claiming he bit Holyfield in retaliation for head-butts from which the referee was not protecting him. Whined Tyson: “Nobody ever has any sympathy or pity for me. In retaliation, I’ll fight back because nobody is fighting for me.”

As an unsolicited service to Suarez, let me suggest the following if–when he is called on to answer for any future bites–he wants to upgrade his response from laughable to flimsy:

  • “I was locked in the grip of an irresistible impulse.”
  • “I have lingering oral-fixation issues from being bottle-fed as an infant.”
  • “Is biting against the rules? I thought it was one of those gray areas subject to interpretation.”
  • “I have a weakness for Italian food.”
  • “It’s a sickness, really. “
  • “Have I told you lately about my charity work with underprivileged kids?”

But if Suarez really wants to upgrade, if he wants to genuinely accept responsibility for outrageous behavior by making a sincere apology, he can try this on for size:

 Mr. Chiellini , I’m sorry I bit your shoulder. Football is a difficult, rough-and-tumble sport in which opponents compete forcefully and intensely. But it has rules. And, more than that, it has a code of honor among competitors. I violated all of those and brought dishonor on the match, my team, my country, the World Cup, the entire sport. There is no excuse for my behavior.

And since I mentioned my team and my country, let me apologize to them too. Playing on the Uruguayan national team is an honor that is dreamed of by many but afforded to few. Because of that, I owed a duty to my teammates, my coaches and my country to play aggressively to the best of my ability–but within the rules. I violated the trust you all placed in me, and as a result I won’t be available to do the job you gave me the privilege to perform. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I let all of you down.

“I Killed A Man”

“I will take full responsibility for what I’ve done.”

That’s what Matthew Cordle wrote on a little card during an amazing video he recorded on September 3. The video reaches out and grabs you by the throat as it begins with these chilling words:

“I killed a man.”

Vincent Canzani was driving his Jeep down the interstate in the early morning hours of June 22, cruising peacefully toward home. His car suddenly collided with a pickup truck speeding the wrong way down that same highway. Canzani died at the scene. Matthew Cordle was driving that truck. He lived.

Cordle tells us that he consulted with lawyers to whom he admitted driving drunk that night–so drunk that he blacked out. The lawyers advised him they had a good shot at getting the alcohol test results thrown out of court and walking out of the courtroom a free man. All Cordle had to do was lie.

Of course, lying is not a cornerstone of our American system of justice. But remaining silent is. In our country one cannot be forced to be a witness against oneself. One has the absolute right to be silent in the face the government’s accusations. And the government cannot use that silence as evidence of guilt. One of the things that makes America great is that before one can be deprived of liberty, the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt without any help from the accused.

So, who could blame Matthew Cordle if he stood on our Constitution?  Who could blame him if he took advantage of his constitutional right and hired a lawyer to be his zealous advocate? Who could blame him if he exercised his constitutional right to remain silent? Who could blame him if he insisted on his constitutional right to have a jury of ordinary citizens hear the evidence? Who could blame him if he insisted on his constitutional right not to get marched off to prison unless all of those citizens on that jury decided that the government had proven him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?

No one should blame him. Because this is America. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with exercising one’s constitutional rights. But that’s not what Matthew Cordle decided to do. Matthew Cordle decided instead to record a full confession.

He hopped from bar to bar. He got drunk. Real drunk. Then he made the choice to drive. And he collided head-on with Vincent Canzani’s Jeep. And killed him. He consulted with lawyers. But then he confessed. Publicly. In a video that went viral. Knowing full well that the government could use that confession to prove his guilt. He said he wouldn’t make them go to the trouble. Because he did it. And he’ll plead guilty once he’s charged. (And, yes, several days later he was arrested and charged with a crime that could send him to prison for more than eight years.)

No, there’s nothing wrong with me insisting on the full protection of those constitutional rights that make America a great country. But there’s also nothing wrong with me deciding to forego those rights and take full responsibility for what I know I did.

Matthew Cordle’s got guts. Yes, he was late coming to the realization that his habit of drunk driving could kill someone. Too late for Vincent Canzani. And his confession doesn’t bring his victim back to life. Nor does it lessen the grief suffered by Canzani’s family. It doesn’t even lessen the severity of his crime. But perhaps it does show that Matthew Cordle–by being willing to “man up” and accept the full consequences of his poor choice–has learned his lesson. And he’s begging us to learn that same lesson before anyone else is killed: Don’t drink and drive.

Maybe in the process he’s taught another lesson to all of us. Maybe he’s taught that lesson to athletes whose drug cheating is uncovered, to politicians caught with a hand in the cookie jar, to Hollywood stars who think their celebrity status entitles them to a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. Maybe they should consider writing these few words on a note card and holding it up to a video camera:

“I will take full responsibility for what I’ve done.”

Maybe we all should.

Top Ten – Excuses Students Give Teachers

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As the Labor Day weekend winds down, students everywhere–and their teachers–are painfully aware that tomorrow, the day after Labor Day, is traditionally the first day of a new school year. In early June, the summer seemed to stretch out endlessly with such promise. Personal re-invention and rejuvenation projects! Languid days spent lazing in the sun! And the smug satisfaction that will come from checking book after book off a “Must Read” list that had grown dusty and dormant over the school year. Tonight students and teachers come face to face with harsh reality: Summer has come to an abrupt end. And those big June plans have produced meager September results. School’s no longer out for the summer.

But all is not lost. Even at this eleventh hour, there’s still time to salvage something of value from summer. Prepare yourself for the school year–teacher and student alike–with these ten excuses for classroom failure.

10. Sorry I’m late Mrs. V, but I had to fight a kid who said you weren’t the best teacher in the building. OK, maybe give this kid a pass just this once. He’s really not all that bad, is he, all things considered? And what a fine judge of teaching prowess he is!

9. Hey, you can’t give me a C. It’ll ruin my GPA! Do you know who my father is?  Why yes, as a matter of fact I do know who your father is. And I know he’ll be pretty darned disappointed in you for getting a “C” when we all know you’re quite capable of doing “A” work.

8. Is there anything I can do for extra credit to bring my grade up?  Hey, here’s a suggestion. Why don’t you finish and hand in the work I’ve already assigned for regular credit? Then talk to me about extra credit.

7. I’m sorry my dad can’t come on the field trip. I know he signed up, but the thing is–he got arrested last night. Sometimes crazy-sounding excuses really are true. Every student faces some silent struggle at home. And every so often those problems bubble over into the classroom.

6. I’m sorry I wasn’t in school yesterday, but it was raining and, you know, I walk to school.  #1 Umbrella. #2 Raincoat. #3 I can state with a reasonable degree of certainty that you won’t melt.

5. I was walking to school and a bear jumped out at me and chased down the street–in the opposite direction from school!–and the chase ended up causing a big traffic jam and then the TV news truck showed up and kinda forced me to do an interview but then a nice police officer gave me a ride to school but first he had to pull these guys over and give them a ticket and so that’s why I’m a few minutes late. Sorry. This kid subscribes to the a-big-lie-is-more-believable-than-a-little-lie theory of excuse-making. Go big or go home is his motto. Maybe he deserves points for creativity. And guts.

4. I’m sorry. My girlfriend is confusing the crap out of me and I can’t think straight!  Is there anyone out there who somehow survived a high-school romance and can’t relate to this poor kid? I say give him a pass on this one. Given the combination of raging hormones and the complexity of the female mind, consider yourself lucky that he even showed up for class.

3. I’m busy. Yeah, I know you’re on the football team. Yeah, I know you’ve got that job at the burger joint so you can make the payments on your car. And I know your girlfriend sucks up a whole bunch of whatever time you’ve got left. But how about making it a point to pencil me and my class into your already-crammed schedule? Please. As a personal favor to me. Thanks so much.

2. Student:”I hate accounting! I just can’t understand it.”  Teacher: “Did you read the book?” Student: “Well, no.”  Just a thought. maybe cracking open that textbook might enhance your understanding of the subject.

1. The dog ate my homework. Yes, I know this is a well-worn classic. But a friend of mine claims that the family dog actually did eat her daughter’s math homework once. They put the shredded pieces in a baggie and sent it to school with an apology letter from the dog. OK! Apology accepted. 

I’m sending out a big thank you to my teacher buddies who contributed these real-life excuses. (OK, I admit it. I did embellish #5 just a bit.) And thanks too for teaching our kids with such heart and commitment. And for lugging those papers home at night and over weekends because you don’t have time to grade them during the school day. And for spending your already-short lunch break talking to a kid who stopped by your classroom to ask a question or share her teenage angst. And for sitting through boring meetings to go over the latest can’t-miss teaching technique or policy directive from the state capital. We know you don’t do it for the money. And you deserve every day of that summer break. Have a great school year!

Gray Rape?

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Last week’s blog post, Excuses for Rape in Cleveland, explored the specific excuses Ariel Castro made for his decade-long rape of three young women he held captive in his Cleveland home. That led to an exploration of the excuses men have traditionally given–and our culture has traditionally accepted–to shift blame from themselves for their sexual assaults. And the flip side of that coin is that when our culture excuses men’s sexual violence, it places the blame squarely on the shoulders of the women whom they victimized. (Why did you wear such a revealing outfit? Why were you out so late at night? I told you this would happen if you got a reputation for sleeping around.)

Sadly, victim-blaming is not a thing of the past. It’s alive and well, as evidenced by the debate about something called gray rape. The gray-rape argument goes that traditionally–think of Doris Day during her “Pillow Talk” period–good girls waited by the phone for men to ask them for a date, they dressed demurely when they went out with a good-reputation kind of guy, they insisted on being brought home at a decent hour, they refused alcohol of any kind, and they allowed nothing more than a chaste closed-mouth kiss on the first date. Sexual assault, says the gray-rape crowd, was a black and white thing back then. Easy to identify. No shades of gray.

Not so easy to identify now, they say. The Doris Day era is decades in the past. Women are more sexually aggressive. They dress in ways that reveal themselves to their best advantage. They don’t wait to be chased; they pursue. They match the guys drink for drink. And sometimes they opt for casual hook-up sex with men they hardly know and have no intention of seeing again. Suddenly sexual assault is not so clear-cut, they claim. How’s a guy to know when the stop light turns red when all night the lights have been green, green, green?

A 2007 Cosmo article article launched the gray-rape controversy, and the battle has been raging ever since. Author Laura Sessions Stepp defined gray rape as “sex that falls somewhere between consent and denial and is even more confusing than date rape because often both parties are unsure of who wanted what.” She noted: ” … lots of women feel it’s perfectly okay to go out looking for a hookup or to be the aggressor, which may turn out fine for them — unless the signals get mixed or misread.”

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But the idea of gray rape is pure baloney. I understand that in the history of male-female sexual encounters there have been times when a woman said “Yes” and then later wished she’d said “No”. There may have even been times when a woman said “Yes” and later denied giving consent because of guilt or shame. But that really has nothing to do with whether rape has any shades of gray. It doesn’t. Black or white. Did or didn’t. Consent or no consent. There is no “somewhere between consent and denial”. It’s one or the other.

Acceptance of the idea that there is such a thing as gray rape makes it more likely that rape victims will not report the assault, will blame themselves and will engage in any number of self-destructive behaviors in an ill-advised attempt to recover from the rape. (Anonymous and dangerous sex, increased drug and alcohol use, and diminished job or school performance are possible reactions.) But just as disturbing as an increase in non-reporting and victim-blaming is gray rape’s tendency to discourage men from taking responsibility for their own sexual behavior. An unnamed college male quoted by Stepp likes the idea of gray rape because it “allows guys to be a**holes”. (I guess by a**hole he means a sexual-assault perpetrator, a rapist.)

If one wants to be a real man, one must step up and understand that it is his responsibility to be sure that he has his partner’s consent before he initiates any sex act. This means, at a minimum:

–He must get a clear “Yes” before he proceeds.

–He must not assume that consent to one type of sexual activity means consent to another.

–He must understand that if there is any question about a woman’s ability to give consent, he must stop. Even if it was her choice to get drunk. Even if she said yes when she was sober.

–He must not presume consent from a woman’s manner of dress or the number and nature of her previous sexual encounters, even her encounters with him.

–She can say no at any time. That means stop.

–There is no gray area. There is no somewhere between consent and denial. No consent = denial.

–He must respect and appreciate women enough to understand that they are not his sexual playthings, not toys created for a man’s sexual gratification.

–He understands that engaging only in consensual safe sex is not just something men do for women; it’s for his benefit and protection too.

–He must understand that sex with a woman is a big deal and can be a beautiful thing. He should treat it that way.

Excuses for Rape in Cleveland

I try not to pick low-hanging fruit. Sometimes the lessons to be learned from a failure to accept responsibility are so easy to detect, so simple to discern that I decide readers have no need for my comment or analysis. I decide that it would be an insult to the intelligence of the followers of this blog to point out the obvious responsibility-acceptance shortcomings in some statements. Like an Anthony Weiner press conference. I try to reach for the tall branches of the tree.

But sometimes I can’t ignore the low-hanging fruit. Sometimes there’s a good reason to state the obvious. So it is with the outrageous comments that Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro made at his recent sentencing.

Castro abducted three women off the streets of Cleveland’s west side starting in 2002. They were 21, 16 and 14 years old. He kept them locked in separate bedrooms in his home, repeatedly raping them vaginally, orally and anally. He got one of the women pregmant and forced a second to act as the midwife to deliver the child. He then kept his own daughter captive, forcing her to live in the same locked room as her mother. Castro made sure other pregnancies were terminated. He used terror, brutal beatings and the threat of more violence to keep them compliant. Among Castro’s tactics: frequently displaying a gun and forcing the women to play Russian Roulette. When the women were finally rescued in May afer a decade of captivity, they were pale, under-nourished and dehydrated.

Castro snapped up a plea deal that saved him from the death penalty. After pleading guilty to 937 counts, he received a sentence of life in prison–plus 1,000 years. (My advice: a low-fat diet, no smoking and plenty of exercise. Who knows how many of those years he could knock down?)

Every defendant has the right to allocute before sentencing. (That’s a fancy 50-cent lawyer/judge word that has a 10-cent meaning: defendant gets to make comments to the judge before getting sentenced.) Castro made the most of his allocution opportunity. His comments included:
–The sex was consensual; in fact they asked him for it.
–His was “a happy household” marked by “harmony”.
–None of the three were virgins when he abducted and began raping them.
–He was not actually a criminal, just a victim. He can’t be responsible for something he can’t control: his disease of sex addiction.
–“I’m not a violent person. I simply kept them there so they couldn’t leave.”
–He pleaded guilty only to save the three women further trauma.

The outrageous nature of these statements is obvious. This fruit is low on the tree. But what makes it important to pick this low-hanging fruit is that Castro’s comments are not at all uncommon. When men commit sex crimes and other crimes of violence against women, it is not unusual for them to engage in all sorts of twisted thinking to justify and minimize their behavior.
–She was asking for it.
–Let me tell you how she was dressed. What else was I to think?
–It’s not like this was the first time for her.
–At first she said yes. Then when she said no, I couldn’t stop myself. And I didn’t really think she meant it.
–She’s the one who chose to get drunk.
–She was out by herself at night. What did she think was going to happen?
–She didn’t even fight back.
–She was flirting with me all night. What else did she expect me to do?
–I’m not getting any at home.
–It wasn’t really rape, just a hookup that went too far I guess.

What makes the Castro case blog-worthy is that it vividly illustrates the need for men to step up and acknowledge their own responsibility to avoid sexual assault. Learn what rape is. Learn how to ask for consent. Accept that “No” really means “No”. Understand that women are people–not just objects for your sexual gratification–and begin to treat them like people. Realize that casual, no-strings sex is a myth; it’s a big deal with possible long-lasting emotional consequences for both partners. Learn how to be a real man, one who enjoys consensual, passionate, powerful sex with a committed partner.

CNN article about Castro’s sentencing comments:
http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/01/justice/ohio-castro/index.html