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Pastor’s False Charge Sets Struggle Against Real Injustice Back

Last month, a pastor named Jordan Brown, who is openly gay, went into a Whole Foods Market in Austin, Texas, and purchased a cake. He ordered the words “Love Wins” to be written in icing. On the car ride home, he claimed, he noticed an anti-gay slur written on the cake as well.

He called the store, received an apology and was told whoever did that would be fired. He was asked to — and did — send photos of the cake, still sealed in the box.

Brown then received a call saying the store didn’t believe any of its employees had done that.

Brown made a video, showing the cake and making the accusation. He also filed a lawsuit, seeking damages. The lawsuit claimed Brown was in tears after the incident, and it is “impossible to calculate the emotional distress that these events have caused.”

His lawyer also told the media that Brown was concerned that if he didn’t raise a fuss, someone else might go through “a similarly excruciating experience.”

Then, last week, more than a month after his purchase, Brown admitted the whole thing was a hoax.

He was right about one thing. No one should have to go through such an excruciating experience.

Especially when a pastor is perpetuating it.

This story struck me on a few personal levels. First, the phrase “Love Wins” has often been associated with a book I wrote called “Tuesdays With Morrie,” where my old professor, who was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease, said that life is a “tension of opposites,” kind of like a wrestling match. When I asked which side wins, he said, “Love wins. Love always wins.”

I don’t know if that’s where Brown got it. But anytime I hear those words, I perk up. To see them in the middle of a mess like this was unnerving.

Secondly, just by chance, I happen to know Walter Robb, the co-CEO of Whole Foods Market. I’ve known him to be an absolute standup person for communities and people’s basic rights. He has made diversity and inclusiveness a loudly stated part of Whole Foods’ core values — something grocery store chains don’t often do. In fact, the Whole Foods employee Brown accused of writing the gay slur was a member of the LGBT community — one reason the story immediately seemed fishy.

Which brings us to Brown, 31, who, stunningly, despite knowing he was lying, referred repeatedly to his faith in his lawsuit. He claimed that he’d grown up in a family of pastors, began preaching when he was 14, and founded his own congregation two years ago, the Church of Open Doors, a non-denominational Christian-based church, which delivers a message of “personal empowerment.”

I’m not a pastor. But I don’t think personal empowerment means lying, suing and making false accusations.

Doesn’t the Ten Commandments cover that?

If someone truly had written that slur on the cake, it would be declared reprehensible. Many did just that, as soon as the story broke, assuming it was true.

We must now do even more with Brown. What he did was worse. For whatever twisted reason, he created phony hatred where there wasn’t any, then sought to benefit from it. He besmirched a good organization, and made a terrible false accusation against an innocent person — a member of the community Brown pretended to defend.

Brown issued an apology with his confession last week, saying, “I was wrong to pursue this matter and use the media to perpetuate this story.”

Of course, he did this through a statement, not a news conference like the one he called to shed false tears. What was his motivation? Money? That’s shameless. Attention? That’s sad. Building support for the gay community by inventing discrimination against it? That’s sick.

Brown set back every future case against intolerance, allowing critics to ask if it’s real or fabricated. We’d do well to not jump the gun going forward, instead doing what Whole Foods did: investigate, get the facts, and then let them speak for themselves. Whole Foods, admiringly, dropped a countersuit against Brown, essentially declaring the matter over.

Meanwhile, Brown should do more than apologize to his small church. He should resign from it. If he was willing to let his phony accusation cost someone a job, his contrition ought to include the same. Besides, who on earth would listen to a pastor who claims “Love wins” while trying so hard to defeat it?

Photo: A box of cupcakes are seen topped with icons of same-sex couples at City Hall in San Francisco, June 29, 2013. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Recruiting Now At Ridiculous Heights

Years ago, I sat in former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler’s office as he finished a phone call with a recruit. His voice was unnaturally high and soft, and a smile seemed pasted on his face. When he hung up, he banged the handset into the base and declared, “God, I hate this recruiting (stuff)!”

I can’t imagine Bo in the era of private jets, video messaging and Twitter. I don’t want to. Recruiting was bad back then. It is beyond description now. Big football schools can regularly spend nearly a million dollars each year — some more than that — to sign a couple dozen recruits. It doesn’t always make them victorious. From 2010-2014, the University of Tennessee averaged nearly $232,000 spent on recruiting for every win it produced, according to USA TODAY.

That’s pretty bad return on investment.

But money might be the least offensive part. The behavior of coaches is embarrassing. Grown men act like lovesick teens outside a window, willing to serenade, drop to their knees, hire a mariachi band or rip off their clothes to get a yes.

And the players, some still too young to drive, are getting just as bad.

Earlier this month, we witnessed National Signing Day. Once this was nothing more than a line on football programs’ calendars. Now, thanks to ESPN and recruiting tout services (who follow kids like racehorses), National Signing Day is televised across the land, giving cause for overpraised high school athletes to play games with school hats before finally pulling one on — as students, family and TV cameras look on. (This, by the way, takes place on a school day. But why bother with attending class when you can command a press conference?)

This year on signing day, a Texas player actually filmed himself jumping from a plane, parachuting through superimposed college logos, then pulling open his jumpsuit to reveal an Ole Miss T-shirt.

To say this is inappropriate is to be a decade too late. The message about the importance of sports today is insulting to the whole concept of education. There are no press conferences for science majors when they choose a college. No future math major ever skydived into admission.

And recruits now evidence a worrisome sense of entitlement. Last week, a Georgia student named Jeremiah Holloman “decommitted” from Michigan. Holloman, a high school junior, visited U-M a few months ago, committed to taking a scholarship in 2017, sent out the big news to his social media, and then, apparently unhappy with how often he got “communication” from U-M — a junior in high school! — announced last week he’d changed his mind.

“I’m a free agent,” he wrote.

That says it all. A kid still a year away from his senior prom already sees himself as a commodity open to all bidders.

But what can we expect when schools pursue prep stars like a Holy Grail? Here are true examples of the lengths to which college coaches have gone to sign a high school player: send 105 letters in a single day; arrive via painted helicopter; create personalized comic books; drive an 18-wheeler to a recruit’s home; send out fake celebrity tweets celebrating the player; sleep over at the kid’s house.

That last one made national headlines when Jim Harbaugh recently did it. Harbaugh also accounted for nearly $136,000 worth of private jet use in a 12-day span in the first month of his hiring as Michigan’s new coach last year, according to USA TODAY. He makes no apologies, calling it a business and fun, even as he piles up critics.

And Michigan — a school that prides itself on high academic standards — registers no complaint with such sports excess, perhaps because 1) Everybody is doing it and 2) The football program is back to winning.

As the athletic director of Tennessee told the SportsBusiness Journal a few years ago, when defending his recruiting costs against a $200 million athletic department debt, “We’ve got to get football healthy. … That’s our economic engine.”

And all this time, you thought it was education. How naive.

Still, somebody should show these kids — and their coaches — the statistics on how many top recruits ever go on to successful NFL careers. Of the top 20 prep recruits of 2007, half never even got drafted.

I think back to Bo complaining about having to be nice on a phone call. Hey, at least he never had to sleep in the family guest room, or wait for a future defensive back to fall out of the sky.

(C) 2016 BY THE DETROIT FREE PRESS DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Altering Gun Laws Isn’t An Absolute Answer, But It’s Change Within Our Control

What made a young couple walk into a health facility and start shooting people? It wasn’t our gun laws. It wasn’t the easy ability to purchase a weapon in this country.

If such things made people killers, all Americans would be killers. In that narrow way, gun advocates who bristle at any change after the San Bernardino killings are right.

No one makes you pull a trigger.

But if you stop the argument there, you’re being naive — as naive as saying no one makes you abuse drugs, no one forces you to drink and drive, no one tells you to give your money to phony investment advisors. Yet we have laws regarding all those things.

Laws, smartly written, address the dangers facing a society. The item in question should be less important than the threat.

But our biggest gun law was written 224 years ago, and it remains mostly about that — guns, and the ownership of them. It’s not about bad behavior, murderous thoughts or anything else that guns frequently exacerbate. We have been arguing over this law, the Second Amendment, for centuries.

But we don’t touch it. Because it’s part of our Constitution. Because it’s cherished by many. And because, supporters argue, it’s not the law that makes people put on vests, drop their baby at a relative’s house, then go on a mass murder spree and die.

That’s a sick mind.

And you can’t legislate against a sick mind.

Recently, the New York Times ran its first front page editorial in nearly 100 years. It called for the end of the “gun epidemic.” Before that, the New York Daily News, in criticizing lawmakers who offered prayers for victims but no new legislation, ran the headline “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.”

Naturally, both papers were buried in insults, dismissed as “typical liberals,” and argued against with an avalanche of selected facts and figures that make the case for doing nothing — or for arming more Americans, not fewer. President Obama, calling for tougher gun laws, was shouted down by a well-practiced chorus of critics, who cynically noted, “How’s it working for Paris?”

But being loud and being right are two different things. It’s always easier to scream against change than to create it. Especially since what change would be 100 percent effective? If we banned every gun in the country, some criminals would still get their hands on them, or use bombs instead, etc.

But is that a reason to watch the next whacked out fundamentalist go freely into a U.S. gun shop, legally purchase guns designed for quick, multiple killings, then use them on fellow citizens to go out in a blaze of infamy?

Because you know it will happen again.

I don’t have a fast answer for this. Nor do I have the energy or stomach to argue with hate-spewing people who are so mesmerized by gun possession they won’t budge an inch. It’s pointless.

But I do take issue with those who refuse to accept that mass killings with assault weapons fall under the same category as a hunter wanting to go after ducks. Yes, we have had guns in this country since its inception, but we have not had other things: a media that sensationalizes violence on a global scale, a population that feels alienated, video entertainment that numbs you to murder and a Internet that can connect all these elements with warped minds that see death as a badge of honor.

I’m pretty sure if America in 1791 had IEDs, jihads and YouTube, our Second Amendment wouldn’t read the way it does. But we cling to words written 224 years ago in a world that changes by the blink. This fact remains: people without a previous criminal history can make their first bad deed a doozy with legally purchased American guns, and killing them once they do only speeds up what many of them hope for: a sensationalized death. This is not limited to Islamic fundamentalists. Mass shootings in Colorado Springs (three dead), Oregon (nine dead) and Charleston, S.C. (nine dead) — all in the last six months — had nothing to do with Islam.

We can leave gun laws untouched, but something else will eventually give: maybe surveillance on every home and business; metal detectors on every door frame; random interrogations, sweeping immigration reform, airborne snipers, rounding up of particular religions. All things that will make America look a lot less like America than if its people were a little less armed.

Our choice. But sick, murderous minds are here to stay. How easy we make it for them is the only thing we can control.

(C) 2015 BY THE DETROIT FREE PRESS DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Photo: Handguns are seen for sale in a display case at Metro Shooting Supplies in Bridgeton, Missouri, November 13, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Young

One Arabic Sentence Closes Schools, And Ignorance Wins

There are many good reasons to cancel school. Snow. A hurricane. No heat. A busted water pipe.

But until last week, I had never heard of canceling schools because of what they were teaching.

I have now.

An entire school system in Virginia was shut down Friday — 10,000 students, all kept at home — after a teacher gave an Arabic calligraphy assignment. The assignment, to copy a line as written, was from a standard textbook in a standard class, world geography, with the subject being world religions.

Unfortunately, the line used was the Muslim statement of faith, which translates to “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

The kids were asked to try writing it.

They went home and told their parents.

Look out.

Emails flew. Phones rang off the hook. Anger simmered and boiled over. The textbook identified the shahada as the Islamic statement of faith, but according to reports, it was never translated to the students, nor was it taught as dogma. It was basically an art project, to see how difficult calligraphy is to reproduce. Chances are most kids had no idea what they were scribbling.

Nonetheless, parents said their kids were being brainwashed. Some called for the teacher’s firing. (Don’t they always call for a teacher’s firing?) Some, the local sheriff told the media, wanted the teacher’s head “on a stake.”

With all the angry smoke rising, law enforcement suggested — and the school board agreed — that every single school in the county be closed Friday.

And all learning screeched to a halt.

Now, there are several legitimate questions in this story. First, is there no other example of Arabic calligraphy? Didn’t anyone involved — teacher, principal, textbook editor — realize a statement of faith is too volatile for a glorified penmanship lesson?

But having asked those questions, here’s another: Do we really need to shut an entire school district over this? Have we so quickly paralyzed ourselves with fear? Are we that spooked by the mere letters of the Muslim faith? And who were the police most concerned about — Muslims, or those who hate them?

“I will not have my children sit under a woman who indoctrinates them with the Islam religion,” a mother told a Virginia TV station.

I understand the anger. It was a foolish exercise. But I’m pretty sure the teacher, whose name is Cheryl LaPorte, was trying less to indoctrinate than to accelerate, hoping to work her way through the Standards of Learning tests that are required by her job.

Now that the district has removed that sentence from the class, she can use a different line to teach the calligraphy lesson. Problem solved.

But not over.

There is a reason book burning is so unnerving. So is shutting a school. Fear stymies education. It paralyzes the mind.

Ironically, the limiting of education — and the exclusion of girls from learning at all — is a key criticism we level against fundamentalist religions — including Islam. We’ve never minded doing Christmas shows in public schools that feature Jewish, Hindu or Muslim students.

Yet here we are, closing down an entire school system — with no actual threats being made — because of a copied Arabic sentence?

I imagine the most hysterical parents would prefer their kids never learn anything about the Muslim faith, never hear the word “Allah,” perhaps never be made aware that 1.6 billion people in the world — nearly 25 percent of the global population — practice that religion.

But ignoring Islam is a clear path toward demonizing it. And if you think that’s how you win a war on terror, think again: Polarizing faiths is the surest way to make certain they attack each other.

The Islamic State would like nothing better than if we made every Muslim feel unwelcome here. People go where they feel wanted. If we remove the freedom of religion principles that make this country great, we might as well set up an express train between the U.S. and Islamic fundamentalists.

There will always be problems. There will always be issues. And, by the way, terror attacks were not invented this year, this decade or even this century.

But learning — open learning — is essential to a free society. It is the bread of a peaceful culture.

Knowledge is power. Ignorance sparks fear. Shutting down schools just means the latter is winning.

(C) 2015 BY THE DETROIT FREE PRESS DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Photo: Ahmed Bin-Baz via Flickr

Respecting Vets Means More Than Clapping

When a soldier goes off to fight, we say, “We’re praying for you.” When a soldier passes in uniform we gush, “Thank you for your service.” When a soldier is brought out on a football field, we whoop and cheer loudly.

But when a soldier dealing with post-combat issues needs a place to go, and that place needs to be built, and that building is in our backyard, suddenly, we’re not so welcoming.

For years, the Michigan Veterans Foundation had a facility in the Cass Corridor area of Detroit. The center provided meals, guidance, treatment and a welcome embrace for veterans dealing with everything from post-traumatic stress to homelessness. No one objected because, let’s face it, the Cass Corridor was hardly valued real estate. Truth is, that’s why many of our social services outlets were located there.

Recently, that has changed. A new hockey arena and a new Wayne State University business school made the Veterans Foundation site — and others nearby — desirable. An offer was made and, rather than fight the tide, the foundation accepted. It sold the building.

And began searching for a new home.

And, suddenly, the cheering stopped.

“Opposition was expressed,” explained Tyrone Chatman, executive director of the Michigan Veterans Foundation, when speaking about the site in Detroit’s Woodbridge District that the veterans group purchased, with plans of building a new center. “They thought it wasn’t a good fit.”

The property currently is an empty lot. And buildings nearby are mostly empty. You would think some activity — any activity — would be welcome.

But numerous residents objected, writing letters to the Detroit Planning Commission and speaking out during community meetings. They were often careful to say how much they supported veterans — don’t we always? — but then said the site was used for walking dogs or jogging and, besides, maybe a more fitting business could go there. You know, the kind that might increase property values.

Chatman, a Vietnam vet, took this hard. He remembered how returning soldiers in his day were spat upon by their countrymen. He thought we were past that.

“It kind of bothers us that it’s OK for men and women to give themselves to this great nation and fight our wars,” Chatman said, “but it’s not OK for us to live near you?”

Sadly, that’s the case. And it’s not the first time it has happened. When those same soldiers we enthusiastically send to fight our wars return with physical or mental issues, we’d privately prefer that they stay out of view.

Which renders us hypocrites.

I have known Chatman and the Michigan veterans group for a while. S.A.Y. Detroit, a charity I helped create, built a state-of-the art kitchen in the Cass Corridor facility. When I visit, the place is spotless. The clients are respectful. Military decorum is followed. You can tell many veterans still cling to their service as a buoy in troubled waters.

There are no wandering vagrants, no leering or dirty language. Nothing that would diminish a neighborhood. The building itself is neat, clean and attractive. The new building’s design is even more impressive, a single-story pentagon with a courtyard in its center.

“We thought the community would be delighted to support it,” Chatman said.

Instead, many objected to its look, while more likely being concerned about its clientele. The center, with a kitchen, gym, guidance center and just over 100 beds, hopes to serve about 1,600 veterans each year.

“It’s not always pretty, when you see men and women that are confined to wheelchairs, canes, walkers, amputees,” Chatman said. “It just seems to me there ought to be a debt of gratitude saying, ‘Hey, guys, you’re our nation’s defenders. You’ve earned the right to live wherever you want.'” Fortunately, by a city meeting Thursday, such an attitude had taken over. According to Chatman, a female veteran spoke movingly of how she was helped. It helped. The plans were tentatively approved, and vocal opposition was minor.

“The vote was to move forward,” Chatman said. “It’s a new day.”

It shouldn’t have to be. The day we send a soldier off to fight should be the same kind of day when he or she returns. If we don’t shun them when we want their sacrifice, we can’t shun them when they need our help.

I’m glad the Woodbridge District has overcome its objections. We’ll be better when there are no objections in the first place.

(C) 2015 BY THE DETROIT FREE PRESS DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Photo: The U.S. Army via Flickr

Tape Tells Story In James Blake Arrest Case

Sometimes police tapes can be misleading. Not this one. Sometimes suspects demand force. Not this one. Sometimes a cop has a really good reason. Not this one.

The videotape of James Blake being arrested in New York City last week leaves nothing to the imagination. Blake, a former tennis star, is the portrait of relaxation, leaning against the front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, waiting for a ride, when a burly, plainclothes police officer comes barreling in like a blitzing linebacker, grabs Blake’s left arm, then the back of his neck, and forces him face down to the sidewalk.

Blake does not resist. He does not struggle. He later told the news media that he was speaking calmly, even acknowledging police have a tough job, but insisting the cop had the wrong guy.

Blake claimed that he was never read his rights, that the officer never followed his suggestion to check his U.S. Open ID, and that he was paraded past the public before ultimately being released 15 minutes later. Six plainclothes officers were involved, yet not one of them filed the paperwork required when a false arrest is made.

If Blake, a Harvard-educated biracial man once ranked among the top 10 tennis players in the world, hadn’t spoken out, you wonder whether we’d ever know about this. I doubt it.

That should bother us greatly.

By the way, here’s the crime the cops were investigating: credit card fraud. Not murder. Not a shooting. No reason to believe the suspect was armed. Yes, the man they were looking for bore a great resemblance to Blake (although he turned out not to be the culprit either). So what? Did the officer really have to pin Blake to the ground — without as much as a question? In what world is that OK? Maybe the old Soviet Union? Germany during World War II? Not here. This country. Credit card fraud? Was he going to slash the officer with an American Express?

Sure, the suspect might have fled. But if “possible” flight were justification, you should be tackled every time you’re pulled over for a broken taillight.

Now when these things happen — and they seem to happen every week — people scatter to familiar sides. Some defend police for having the toughest job on Earth. Some decry police as bullies. Some cite procedure. Some flip through law books.

But nobody should ignore the fact that this cop, James Frascatore, has been sued at least four times for roughing up suspects during arrests. And he has been on the New York force for only four years.

I’m no mathematician, but that’s a pretty bad average.

And so the same way we ask how a drunken driver is behind the wheel after multiple violations, we should ask how this cop still is making arrests at this time in this country. And we should wonder if the victim of his aggression wasn’t a once-famous tennis player, would Frascatore, who had his gun and badge stripped by an embarrassed police commissioner, still be out there treating others this way?

You know the answer. It’s yes.

That, too, should bother us greatly.

You notice I’ve barely mentioned race. That’s because race should not be the lead on this story — although it sure may be part of it. It does seem that Frascatore, who is white, has issues with black suspects, given multiple New York media reports citing black individuals claiming he roughed them up (including punching a man in the face for a broken taillight). And if true, it’s beyond disgusting, and his continued presence on the force is a blight that should be wiped out immediately.

But the fact that Blake, 35, doing nothing, leaning against a front wall of a major Manhattan hotel, can be body slammed this way should speak volumes about how some cops handle things away from mean streets and racial tension.

“To me it’s as simple as unnecessary police force, no matter what my race is,” Blake told the news media. He also correctly pointed out that, “I have the resources to get to the bottom of this. I have a voice. But what about the person who doesn’t have the resources and doesn’t have a voice?”

That person would likely be bruised, scarred and wondering how this could happen in America, while police who didn’t file a report went about their business and a cowboy cop with four lawsuits against him continued to play Wild, Wild West.

And that should really bother us.

Because that person could be you.

(C) 2015 BY THE DETROIT FREE PRESS DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Image: Ex-tennis star James Blake is shown handcuffed by a NYPD officer James Frascatore (R) in front of the Grand Hyatt hotel in New York on September 9, 2015 in this still image from a security camera video released on September 11, 2015. REUTERS/NYPD/Handout

Black-Like-Her Case Is A How-To-Feel Issue

A white daughter is born to white parents. At some point, she identifies with being black. As a young woman, she changes her appearance, her skin, her hair and she begins referring to herself as mixed race. She is later assumed to be African-American. She ultimately rises to the head of an NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington, until her past is revealed and, at 37, she resigns amid scandal.

When I first heard this story — the strange tale of Rachel Dolezal — it raised my eyebrows. Many folks are born into one religion, yet convert to another, or are born in one country but become citizens of another, or learn in one language but speak in another. The finished human product may not always resemble what the birth certificate predicted.

Still, there used to be certain things you were just, well, stuck with. Skin color was one of them.

Today, it seems, what you feel trumps what science says you are. In fact, with the aid of a flexible English language, certain words have become a virtual science by themselves.

If you call yourself something, it can be so.

Rachel Dolezal went from calling herself white to, at least at one point recently, calling herself black. Despite protests from her Caucasian parents, who seem bewildered by her gene denial, she continues to tell a crooked story. When she was younger, she sued a university for allegedly discriminating against her because she was white (so it served her purpose then) but this past week, on NBC, she said, “Well, I definitely am not white. Nothing about being white describes who I am.”

Except for her born skin color, which is the only thing that counts in defining her race. Dolezal sees “being white” as an experience, or an attitude, or a way of acting, which she rejects. (This, by the way, is as insulting to white people as when bigots suggest there is a “black” way of acting.)

But while rejecting biological details because you don’t feel that way, or don’t want to think of yourself that way, may be satisfying to the individual, it does create issues for society.

Let’s start with the simple ones.

A Fox News commentator, Andrea Tantaros, in response to the stories of Dolezal and Caitlyn Jenner, asked, “If I self-identify as a cat, a feline, do I have to pay income taxes?” It’s a comical suggestion, but not so funny in these changing (or is it changeling?) times.

For example, what would the rules be if a military draft were reinstated — and only young men were sent into combat? Would a biological man identifying as a woman be exempt? If so, might not many men falsely claim this?

If scholarships are offered for African-American students, would the next Rachel Dolezal qualify because she identifies as one? And how do you keep a census? How do you study trends? How to do track medical data of certain ethnic groups?

These are real and often serious questions.

Add to this the case of people who want to identify one way today and another way tomorrow. Sound crazy? Why? If biological definitions are merely “assigned” to you at birth, you can accept or reject them whenever you choose.

Dolezal interviews in a calm and steady voice, as if to say, “What’s the fuss about?” This despite fibbing about being born in a teepee or living in South Africa. Critics have labeled her everything from a nutcase to a pathological liar.

I wonder whether it’s not something else. I wonder whether it’s not our me-first culture which teaches that how we feel is all that matters. It’s woven into the sky-high divorce rate, the explosion of antidepressant drugs, the celebration of ego without much accomplishment.

And now it’s entangled in genetics. If we feel something deeply enough, that can make it so — even being a different race. Dolezal told NBC she cried when she read about Caitlyn Jenner, saying, “I resonated with some of the themes of isolation, of being misunderstood.”

I’m no scientist, but aren’t those feelings?

The shame of it is, by most accounts, Dolezal was doing a good job at the Spokane NAACP before stepping down. Why couldn’t she have done so as a white woman? It’s nonsense to think that your skin has to be the same color as someone else’s to help them.

Maybe that’s the only positive takeaway in this bizarre story. You don’t need to be black to care about black causes, or white to care about white. Most of those causes are, at their core, about being human. If we accepted how much we all fit in that category, there might not be such a rush to deny the others.

Screenshot via KXLY.

One Man's Actions, And The Incalculable Damage Done

Imagine you were one of them.

Imagine you were 10 years old. A coach you trusted. A man you liked. A guy with white hair. An “older” person.

Imagine he led you. Imagine you listened. Imagine you didn’t want to. Imagine you did what you were told.

Imagine the setting. A bathroom. A shower. Imagine he said it was OK. Imagine his tone. Imagine his eyes.

Imagine the disbelief. The horror. The pain. The tears.

Imagine the shame. The confusion. The rage.

Imagine going home. Lying in your bed. Eating dinner with your family. Going to school — elementary school, fourth or fifth grade.

Imagine years passing, seeing the event, again and again, whenever you close your eyes. Imagine the nightmares. Imagine the loss.

Now imagine keeping all this to yourself.

Because most people do.

The damage done by former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, if the charges against him prove to be true, is almost unimaginable — except for the roughly 14 percent of boys and 33 percent of girls, according to some estimates, who have been molested before the age of 18.

That’s right.

A third of all girls. A seventh of all boys.

And most abuse goes unreported.

This horror did not begin with Penn State. It will not end with Penn State. It is an ugly underbelly of adult behavior that has been around forever and is only increasing with the Internet and the spread of pornography.

Many were mistaken at Penn State.

But one man was responsible.

The damage done.

Did you watch the Nittany Lions game Saturday? Was it not surreal? Think about, in a matter of days, the lives Sandusky knocked over with his alleged behavior.

Here, for the first time in 62 seasons, was a Penn State team without Joe Paterno, who was watching, presumably, on a television set somewhere. He was weeks from a potentially glorious retirement, a celebration of all he had done and represented at his school. Gone now. Vaporized by the mere allegations against Sandusky — not a trial, not a conviction, just the charges alone. The mere idea that Paterno did not take more serious action if aware of Sandusky’s behavior was enough to ban him forever from a sideline and to punt seven decades of football into a cesspool.

The damage done.

The school president, Graham Spanier, one of the longest-serving university presidents, is gone, ousted. Same for Tim Curley, the athletic director, and another high-ranking school official, both of whom, in 2002, allegedly heard from a graduate assistant about Sandusky having relations with a boy in the showers of the football building.

That graduate assistant, now an assistant coach, is on leave, hiding somewhere, the object of death threats.

All this from Sandusky’s alleged lust.

The current players, who had no part of any of this, are now altered, their experience shadowed. The university and the townspeople, once unified by Blue and White, are split over who to blame and who to pity.

So many affected. One man’s actions.

The damage done.

Imagine you are one of them.

Imagine these last few weeks.

Imagine being questioned by authorities. Imagine having to relive the nightmare. Imagine anger. Imagine relief. Imagine fury. Imagine surrender.

Imagine saying, “Finally.” Imagine saying, “What took so long?” Imagine seeing rallies in support of those who knew — or might have known. Imagine thinking you will be blamed and hated for bringing a program down.

Imagine wishing to have your story told. Imagine wishing no one would ask you anything.

Imagine pain and confusion, all over again.

Imagine wondering, “Why me?”

This is not a football story. This is not a Joe Paterno story. This is a daily story, an American story, an international story, a human tragedy. The shame, pain, hurt and confusion are no different for Sandusky’s suspected victims than they are for the dozens of cases reported last week, or the hundreds last month, or the thousands last year.

Fingers point. Blame is an arrow. And the months to come will unfold an already wincing story. But you need only survey the landscape to see what happens when an adult robs a child of innocence.

One man. A million little pieces.

The damage done.

(C) 2011 BY THE DETROIT FREE PRESS DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.