The story in today's Dallas Morning News about Dallas Cowboys football player Dez Bryant getting off on mom-beating charges contains this line about Bryant's lawyer, state Senator Royce West: "West said the incident was a dispute, not an assault."
The woman called DeSoto cops and said her son had tried to kill her. She had swollen wrists and other signs of physical violence two days later. She characterized the attack as part of a longstanding pattern of abuse.
Look, I'm not normally a huge fan of so-called "old-fashioned values." In fact I think old-fashioned values probably have a lot to do with the idea that men have the right to beat the shit out of women. And, sorry, I know "beat the shit out of" is a pretty imprecise colloquialism. But way back in the day, back in the era of old-fashioned values that I remember, if I had hit my mother in the face and knocked her around enough to bruise her up and cause her to call the cops and use the phrase, "He tried to kill me," I know that my family and my friends and my peers at work and everybody else I knew at the time would have said I beat the shit out of my own mother. Which would have been a bad thing.
Nobody -- not one person I knew, even my best friends -- would have said, "Oh, no. Jim didn't beat the shit out of his mom. It was a dispute."
So give me a second here. I'm trying to do a quick recalibration and see what I think the deal is now. My mother died more than a decade ago, but if I were able to bring her back now, and if she and I got into it and I kicked the shit out of her, how many people do I know today who would defend my actions as part of a simple "dispute?"
Hmm. Let me see. I am thinking of every single person I know. No, not him. Definitely not that other lady: she'd get a shotgun and kill me.
What about Mom, herself? Oh, you know what? She'd probably pack me a lunch and put my toothbrush and comb in a little paper bag, make sure I had clean underwear and a warm jacket and then say, "Jimmy, you are going away on a very long trip now."
Aha! I found one! I thought of one single person who would say that beating the shit out of your mother is a dispute, not an assault. State Senator Royce West! I do know him. And he's already said it. To a reporter, no less.
Bryant, according to the stories, is paying a price for his behavior. He has to undergo counseling. That's sort of a new concept, as well. Beat the shit out of your mom. Undergo counseling.
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If forced counseling is what you get for beating he shit out of your own mother, then what about crimes that seem less serious to me, like robbing a bank? Why shouldn't bank robbers have a choice between a six-year stretch in the big house and counseling? Maybe robberies aren't robberies after all. Maybe they are disputes over funds. If beating the shit out of your own mom is just a dispute, I don't see why making a controversial bank withdrawal couldn't be viewed as one too.
Maybe we're all just becoming more compassionate and advanced in our thinking about this whole mom-beating thing. It could be one of those things that's coming out of the closet. Maybe it's common. If we men let down our guard and maybe had a couple beers and sat around the campfire and confessed, would we all say, "Oh, yeah, I beat the shit out of my own mother all the time"? Maybe it's just a matter of our needing to be incentivized toward more positive outcomes.
The NFL could play a role. Every time they pop up one of those little mini-biographical graphics of the players on our TV screens, they could have a little box-score in small print at the bottom: "Hasn't beaten the shit out of his own mom in more than six months."
No. They'd say, "Hasn't had a dispute within his own mom ..." And we would all know what that really means. Wouldn't we? Tell me we would.