Design, Life, and Everything Else

An Opinion on the Big Questions About (Big) Little Things

Author’s Note: I live roughly 20 miles south of Steubenville, OH, driving along Ohio State Route 7. Across the Ohio River, I can see Wheeling, WV from my doorstep; I see the stadium lights, hear the numerous fans of whatever team is playing at the athletic multiplex. This is not an easy post for me. I don’t sympathize with the Big Red players, I don’t sympathize with the character witnesses for the defense, and I certainly don’t sympathize with the media that would simplify the entire ordeal to nothing more than boys being boys, or girls showing a little too much. I would have liked to think — in another day and age perhaps — that the Ohio Valley might garner a more positive review from The New York Times. Though I applaud the thorough coverage the NY Times has given this particular debacle, I am still outraged. 

Bystanders knew. Those who took pictures knew. Those who made videos knew. There is little, if any, evidence — caught on video, Instagram, or any other form of capturing a moment — that would even suggest this girl was willing, let alone consensual (after all, when it comes to sex, an initial “yes” does not trump a secondary, tertiary, or any other level of “no.”)

And yet, there is something wrong with this: the boys were great athletes, poised to take the Big Red to a state championship (excuses, excuses: the team missed the opportunity simply because this case took away their best players); the girl was from another state (West Virginia, which in Ohio is generally considered less-than-worthy of equal treatment, especially where both states meet at The River) and was said to be sexually provocative, according to the NYT. Maybe she was flashing some skin, trying to be older by drinking more… trying to fit into the crowd that is today beset by images of promiscuity and lavish, unrestrained sexuality. Maybe she was. But, I bet, at the end of the day, she wasn’t looking for what happened. The people who did it, filmed it, photographed and shared it: I bet they weren’t looking for it either, though they also weren’t overlooking an opportunity to be indifferent.

And then, the football culture in this area! It worries me more that this might be the only reason this story came into the national spotlight (aside from the premise that social media now make it easier to be indifferent).

Had the two suspects not been high school football stars, would this even be a scandal? What if the suspects had been members of a science club? What if the victim were an exchange student from Uzbekistan, rather than right-next-door W.V.? What if this had just been a random rape in the streets of Steubenville, not involving football boys, but a homeless man who’d think he’d get something from a drunk passerby who just happened to be female?

Would the world care then?


When You Feel Less-than-Creative

Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.
Paul Rudnick: American playwright, screenwriter, and novelist

So, here I am, at roughly 12:35AM (Eastern Standard Time, or UTC -5:00), and I am at a complete loss on how to continue the evening.  I want to do something creative: write a poem or short story about how I should have made this decision over that one; draw a picture of how I felt at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner (thankful to see them, but out of place); throw cotton swabs at a piece of watercolor paper smeared with gesso and connect the dots. But, I can’t find the mental motivation, the impetus to get away from this computer and actually do it.

(I realize that at this hour, I should be sleeping… or at least preparing for sleep. I have always been a night-owl, finding my deepest insights at the time that bedbugs are naturally inclined to creep through the mattress — that is, close to dawn, when the normal person is deepest asleep. But tonight, I find nothing but the computer screen, some online radio, and a game I shouldn’t waste my time playing, no matter how much I enjoy strategy and virtual warfare. To be short, I lack the ability to do something productive to(day/night).)

What bothers me most is that, later, I will be at work or getting ready to go to work, and PHOOSPAH! there it’ll be: the idea I’ve spent all night/week/month/a lifetime to find (to let find me). And, sadly, I will be unable to follow its creative paths until it is lost to me altogether. It will become as so many other ideas have become: a half-sleeping dream that flits in and out of my conscious awareness, only to escape again before I am able to grab a net or even lay out fly paper.

Somehow, I find happiness in the knowledge that — though I have yet to capture these creative outbursts — I have been able to see them, and will continue to do so. If only I could “reach the point where” I have no choice but to let those ideas free.