How low can we go?

You remember the game/dance contest Limbo, don’t you? Two people hold a bar, or something that can be used as a bar, like a broomstick, and create a threshold which players must clear from beneath. Usually with a calypso beat, contestants jiggle under the bar while bending backward, limbs akimbo, trying not to touch the bar. After each round, the bar gets lowered. Of course, while the object is to clear the bar from below, one must also not lose one’s balance. If either the bar falls or the player falls, the player is out.

The idea of being suspended–or that one’s status is suspended —is an uncomfortable one for most people. Americans seem to need certainty and status and quick resolution. It seems like we are more comfortable lowering the bar as if we are playing Limbo, than we are at being in limbo.

Many have wondered if there is actually more upheaval now than there had been in previous decades. Have we just lowered the bar, and now share more of the hideous sides of humanity and nature? Are we descending lower and lower, or do we just get exposed to more human and natural violence?

We have bemoaned the state of obnoxious and toxic behavior across the media as well as the paralyzing fear that accompanies us when exposed to threats and acts of terrorism. We have shared our outrage over Ray Rice and those just like him, as well as those who turn a blind eye, especially the NFL. Yet, it is hard not to feel like we are trying to see how low we can go.

Well, the bar is very low now. Next in line after Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, of the Minnesota Vikings, was indicted on a felony charge of beating his 4 year old son. Apparently, he beat the tot with a TREE BRANCH, which lead to severe welts and bleeding all over his body that the pediatrician felt must be reported. A contrite Peterson said that he never intended to cause harm. After all, he was merely “disciplining” his son. He maintained that he would never abuse his son. Peterson was suspended for a game. Within days, he was reinstated.

Now I’m not sure which part of this is the most disturbing. For now, let’s just consider that Peterson’s understanding of the words “abuse” and “discipline” are cause for extreme concern. I actually believe that he believes that he is not an abuser. That is absolutely terrifying. He was clear that he was “disciplining” his son in the way that he was “disciplined”. I guess he figured it’s only abuse if he was out of control?

What constitutes abuse is in fact confusing for many. Consider Janay Palmer, Ray Rice’s wife, and so many like her, who live with abusers.  We seem to be in limbo about how to deal with abuse. The NFL doesn’t see abuse and doesn’t understand discipline.

How low can some go? Yesterday, Urban Outfitters apologized for selling a red-splattered Kent State sweatshirt. They pulled the bloody-looking ‘vintage’ Kent State sweatshirt from the shelves after being told it was offensive. This, on the heels of Zara’s pulling the striped jersey with the yellow 6 pointed star in the corner. They didn’t realize it was offensive as it resembled Holocaust prison uniforms. Like hideous behavior that resurfaces from time to time, these retail offenses were not firsts. Two years ago, Adidas created a line of sneakers with shackles. Who knows how low some can go?

And while I hesitate to give any attention to attention getters, when behavior is so hideous that others may follow, I believe attention must be paid. Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh, who loves inciting, was commenting on sexual consent and said, “No means yes if you know how to spot it.”

The abusers who don’t even know they are abusing should not be rewarded financially until they are able to discern the impact of their actions, products and words and change their behavior. And those who are willing to do or say anything for commercial gain? Let them fall.

It often feels like we’d rather dance under the bar than remain in a state of uncertainty. I am certain, though, that the bar can be raised, and that the contortions that some make in order to justify their disregard for others, will leave them out of the game when we stop supporting their dancing around decency.