Overheard

The following conversation is purely fictional. Any similarity between characters in this dialogue and persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

The Scene: Rural Manners’ bedroom in a large city on the Midwest. We find Rural and his wife Patience in a heated conversation as they get ready for bed.

Rural: Oh come on, Patience, I really don’t care what your friend Sally told you about how her husband treats her. It’s none of our business.

Patience: But Sally is one of my best friends. I have seen her. She’s covered  with bruises and is near panic. I think we should do something to help her.

Rural: What about her husband? I’ve known Sacks for years and he is a good man — and a better assistant coach. He would never hit his wife. And if he did she probably had it coming. Anyway, it’s none of our business. Now go to sleep.

Patience: Sleep! How can I sleep when one for my best friends needs my help and I don’t know what to do? Sacks is an animal. He’s out of control. It’s just not right!

Rural: Not right? Who’s to say what’s right and what’s wrong?  Who are we to judge? You’re always saying we shouldn’t be judgmental, so let’s agree to just leave it alone! We have no idea what goes on in that house.

Patience: We have a pretty good idea what goes on in that house. This isn’t the first time and Sally is sure it won’t be the last. She’s seriously considering divorce.

Rural: Well then. That takes care of the problem, Sally will leave Sacks and the problem is solved.

Patience: It is not solved. It’s just hidden. The fact is that Sally has been abused, seriously abused. And that sort of thing just shouldn’t be allowed. You can do something about it as he is your friend and your assistant. At the very least let him know we know what’s going on and that you will go to the Administration at the University if it happens again. You might even threaten to fire him!

Rural: Fire him?? You must be kidding! He’s one of the best coaches in the country. Other universities would die to have him. I’m not going to say a damned thing. After all, he’s been loyal to me all these years and I feel a loyalty to him. He is, after all, one of my best friends. He’s one of OUR best friends. We shouldn’t be so quick to judge. After all, we haven’t walked a mile in his shoes, as they say.

Patience: Oh, Rural, this is all rationalization. And you know it. The man needs to be punished and we can’t just sit by and pretend nothing happened.

Rural: Oh yes we can. Just watch me!

Patience: I am really disappointed in you, Rural. You stand before the public as a pillar of moral rightness and the team looks up to you as an example of how to behave. You want to just ignore this whole thing and pretend it never happened when our good friend Sally’s life is in tatters and you might be able to do something to help her. You do realize if this comes out you could be in big trouble. Have you thought about that?

Rural: Nonsense! I’ve done nothing illegal. And as far as ethics is concerned, which you seem to be all caught up in, it’s just a matter of opinion. There’s no way I’m going to get in trouble and you know it. So just go to sleep, Patience. I need to be my sharpest for practice tomorrow.

In the event, the matter became public. There was a great bloody hue and cry and the general public wanted justice. Many wanted Rural Manners fired. A committee was formed and after several weeks it was decided that Rural would be placed on administrative leave for three games, without pay, and would not be allowed to coach Major University’s football team during that period. His large salary would, of course, take a slight dent, but the Booster Club was prepared to make up the difference. After all, Major University was in the picture for a National Championship that year and that would bring millions of dollars into the University’s coffers. They didn’t want to risk losing their coach! The university’s reputation would suffer a bit, but these things tend to blow over quickly as soon as another scandal beaks out. And that would be soon, as everyone knew. So, in the end, with a few exceptions involving the nay-sayers in the country, everyone was happy and things soon went back to normal.

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13 thoughts on “Overheard

  1. I loved it Hugh ; straight to the point when money and position are concerned compromise nearly always rears its head.

  2. You did an excellent job on this, my friend! Sadly, our priorities are turned upside down in this nation, and I have no doubt that similar conversations have taken place all around the nation — more than we will ever know, I’m sure, for we have seen only the tip of the iceberg.

  3. Hugh, you should be a playwright. This is highly believable. The DV abusers tend to do an excellent job of masking their abuse at work. They overcompensate and no one, even Rural, would ever envision him as an abuser. He is a great guy and coach.

    I am reminded of the story I share often that none of a sister’s eight siblings and their spouses had any clue her wonderful husband was beating her. They did not know until he killed her. They also learned he was punishing his sons by picking them up and banging their heads into the ceiling. But, he was a great guy…..Keith

  4. Rare is the person who can find a strong backbone and address difficult topics. I know many people who regret not speaking up – or not leaving – or like Keith mentioned, realizing too late when someone dies…..

    I recently listened to an interview w/Guy McPhearson; the interview hit on lots of points about abrupt climate change, and i transcribed part of it..(He hit lots of interesting points – scary ones. sobering ones.) They also discussed why people don’t talk about certain things, and here’s his answer: ” “Privilege. People who talk about the things I talk about are not supported in their position…you will lose support – I lost support based on what I was teaching at the time. Nobody wants to have that happen; nobody wants the courses they teach eliminated from the curriculum; nobody wants to be the persona non grata at the water cooler, much less than lose things like prestige and the ability to do the research they want to do and maybe take a cut in their paycheck. There all kinds of ways that privilege can come to us – and if you’re not welcome in your workplace, that’s feeling of extreme discomfort.

    At the societal level, it’s one of those things that we never even mention; one of the most tabooed things in this culture is the discussion about death. Almost nobody is willing to have that conversation – it’s certainly not water cooler talk – we’d way rather talk about football or basketball or politics – we’d way much more talk about those things than we would about the short time we have here on earth. I don’t care how long you’re going to live – it going to seem like a very short time on earth – so we just don’t even have that conversation. …I think that part of it is cultural – part of us just do not want to have certain conversations; we do not want to talk about sex, we don’t talk about death, we don’t talk about grieving, we don’t talk about bodily functions. All of those things, BTW, are perfectly normal, and yet we won’t even have a conversation about that…it’s kind of bizarre, actually.”

    ………….

    so add ‘verbal and physical abuse’ to their list of taboo subjects that people avoid….

      • hi from a food court – my office for the hour!

        a new thing i keep noticing when online and reading public ‘forums’ regarding items of interest going on in the country/countries, is the venom in so many people… like serpents, they are poised to attack anyone… it is surely a flag of the times, of the stress levels, etc… you are soooo right about being careful who we discuss things with!

        i think i think i think i’ll be usa bound next week.. a very short visit, but i look forward to holding that book in my hand!!!

  5. Dr. Curtler,

    An interesting and important dialogue. Plato would recognize and appreciate the form immediately.

    In the past fifty years, I have been approached dozens of times by friends, students, colleagues, and former students who sought my advice in dealing with abusive partners, colleagues, or supervisors. Early on, I felt the need to learn more about laws and policies dealing with abuse and harassment. I even co-authored our university’s first policies dealing with sexual and personal harassment.

    I came to regard policies and procedures as an organization’s equivalent to moral and ethical promises and just actions. They are important, but they cannot come into play unless individuals act in light of their own moral and ethical standards.

    Policies like these address all possible cases. Yet, although there are predictable similarities in most cases of abuse and harassment, the victims are always unique individuals. It is important to listen to them, to hear what they have to say, to inform them of their options, and to not let them be overwhelmed or overtaken by procedural juggernauts. This can happen all too easily.

    I also recommend that those reporting abuse or harassment have these conversations, whenever possible, with an informed and supportive person of their own gender. Victims need to be heard, need to feel empathy, and need to discuss their options. They do not need to be told what to do. The best intentions can lead to actions with frightening, if unintended, consequences for the victims. Thus, care and reassurance need to be coupled with caution — not inaction, just fully-informed mindfulness.

    It is also important to protect the rights of those who have been named as abusers, particularly by maintaining confidentiality as much as possible. This is essential in the early stages of inquiry. Policies and procedures are important for all concerned.

    I hasten to add, however, that in thirty years of investigating these cases, I have yet to see someone wrongly made the subject of a formal review. (Informal accusation, yes; formal review, never.) Abusive people ALWAYS have a history of abusive behavior, most of which has been hidden, ignored, or simply rationalized by friends, colleagues, and supervisors — and often their victims, as well. Hence, the poignancy of your dialogue.

    Based upon my experiences, I strongly recommend that we never let the “complications” or “messiness” of dealing with abuse and harassment deter us from getting involved. It is easy to forget that someone’s well-being, livelihood, or life may be at stake. It matters not whether they be loved ones, acquaintances, or strangers; what matters is that we never become strangers to our own better angels.

    Stand up. Step up. Speak up.

    For what it’s worth…

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