A not so well-guarded foible that he seldom admits or discusses, Cyrus Brooks, the thoughtful protagonist of my Brooks/Lotello crime, suspense and courtroom thriller series, is addicted to . . . dance. More precisely, dance shows. He loves the two television reality shows, So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With The Stars. (No small coincidence, so do The Wife and I.)
To Cyrus’s dismay, the current season of SYTYCD has just concluded. But no matter, it will be back next season, and, in the meanwhile, the current season of DWTS just “kicked” off. One of this season’s stars is none other than Ryan Lochte, the 32-year-old U.S. Olympic multi-gold-medalist swimming star. You’ll remember Lochte; he’s the one who wrongfully tried to shift the blame for his own drunk and disorderly misdeeds following the Rio Olympics from himself, the culprit, to Rio, the host nation and victim of his chicanery.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, as the case may be, Lochte is apparently not the sharpest tool in the shed, and he was soon exposed for the adult delinquent–and possible alcoholic–that he is. Amazing that he can manage to be a world class (easy on the word class) athlete in spite of himself. I guess talent will out. Because of his atrocious Rio behavior, Lochte has crashed and burned after ducking out on Rio, losing most of his endorsements and suffering worldwide scorn and fall from grace.
As you can tell, Lochte enjoyed no sympathy from yours truly. I resent the potential stain on the integrity and greatness of the Olympics caused by Lochte. His attempt at contrition and wearing his heart on his sleeve, struck me as too little, too late, an obvious PR scripted attempt to cut his losses.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw that Lochte had been chosen as one of the DWTS’s current “stars.” I thought that was poor “form,” and poor judgment on the part of the show’s producers. (Actually, maybe it was good judgment in terms of perhaps hyping the show’s ratings. After all, Lochte’s recent debacle has been the subject of considerable media coverage.)
Then, a strange incident occurred on the first episode DWTS’s current season. As Lochte and his professional dancing partner completed their first dance of the new season, and stood before the show’s judges to receive their inaugural evaluation, Lochte was rushed, on stage, by two morons who wanted to embarrass Lochte, if not physically attack him. They were immediately subdued by security personnel and removed to whatever fate awaits them, no doubt not as severe as it should be.
Ignoring the (remote) possibility that this was a PR stunt on the part of the show’s producers (Oliver Stone has nothing on me, and why not, the show regularly exaggerates injuries to the performers who then make miraculous recoveries to fight on to fame and glory), or even Lochte himself (actually probably above his “pay grade” to pull off something like that), this incident, feigned or real, got me to thinking. (Cut it out, I do engage in that every now and then.) The on camera performers rallied around Lochte, showing great compassion for him. Their view: Every “dog” deserves (at least) his first “bite.” Sure, Lochte messed up, big time, but he’s trying, like Phoenix, to rise back up from the ashes, to redeem himself. The show’s personalities said that’s what the show’s all about, giving people a chance to develop a new dimension of their spirit and character. When it comes to the show’s principals, and principles, it would seem fair to say that they represent the art of compassion.
I have no sympathy for Lochte’s post-competition behavior in Rio (in the pool, he was great), and I completely support his resulting ten-month suspension from swimming handed down by the sport’s authorities, but, that said, Lochte didn’t murder or rape anyone (the biggest victim of his misbehavior being himself), and he should be able to admit his wrongs (as he only very belatedly did) and reconstitute himself.
Which “brings” me to Hesperia. (And, of course, you know why, don’t you?)
Actually I’ve never really been there. And it’s not high on my bucket list of things to do either. Located about 20 miles northeast of San Bernardino (now sadly famous forever in its own right), California, in the desert, Hesperia is no Beverly Hills. (Not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.) Property values and resident income levels in Hesperia are not very high. But that doesn’t mean that folks in Hesperia don’t take high pride in their community, and seek to improve it. Kind of like Lochte is doing.
Well, it seems like they are having some trouble. Right there in River City. Oops, right there in Hesperia (where there admittedly aren’t many rivers, if any).
At least according to some, incarceration (i.e., jail time) is meant to rehabilitate, not punish. There may be some room to debate that, but that is the official policy of the State of California. So, because most (not all!) convicted felons don’t have many assets and virtually no income, and no means (make that no lawful means, like job opportunities) to generate any income to sustain themselves when they serve their debt to society and are returned to the streets. So, how are they to get by when they are released, and while they try to learn an employable skill and persuade some compassionate employer to take a chance on them?
Well, the State of California has decided, compassionately, and wisely, that it’s better to provide these folks with somewhat of a group “foster” home, a half-way house, where groups of released felons can have a roof over their head, three squares a day and a shower, while they try to acquire employable skills and find a job, and the ability to support themselves, without having them join the ranks of the downward spiraling homeless. Makes good sense—just so long as those foster homes are somewhere else. Right? Somewhere other than near where you live.
California officials have chosen Hesperia (and other low income communities) because, let’s face it, it takes less public resources to acquire property for a foster home in Hesperia than in Beverly Hills.
But it seems that the residents of Hesperia are not happy having those questionable “retreads” living next door to them. Seems they don’t want to associate with, or even see, this riff raff, the hoi polloi. Like the two jerks who confronted Lochte on the DWTS set, Hesperia residents (or at least most of them) are on the war path, and the local city council is backing them, making it nigh on impossible for these foster homes to exist in Hesperia. Even though these foster homes are run under tight scrutiny and rules and have proved to be no problem. Break a rule there and the authorities that run the foster home program send you packing. It happens occasionally, sure, but it’s very infrequent and crime associated with these homes and their occupants has been rare. Mostly, these foster home occupants just quietly—very quietly—mind their own business, mainly staying to themselves, staying indoors, and using computers to take online classes and look for job opportunities. In fact, these foster residents seem to make better neighbors than their neighbors do.
Listen to the Hesperia residents, and their City Council, and you would think they represent the science of compassion (or lack thereof). Which is highly questionable because they have no data to back up their lack of compassion.
The California “foster a group” of released felons program is working—except for the those who don’t want to bear the brunt of the program living right next door to them, or even in their community. But even felons (more accurately ex-felons) have rights, such as equal protection and to the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Ultimately, the courts will straighten this out. But it will take time. And public resources spent on lawyers.
Perhaps it would be better to find a less contentious and a speedier solution. One thought that occurs to me: Shift the disproportionate burden from low income communities like Hesperia to all California communities. Kind of like jury duty. You might not like it, but once a year you have to pull your weight. Take your turn in the barrel. Right now, tiny Hesperia has three or four of these foster homes. That is disproportionate. Maybe we could shift two or three of those to other communities. Maybe Beverly Hills will take one! And there is enough land around that these foster homes can be less right there in the faces of our upstanding, compassionate, caring citizens living in highly populated areas.
It’s just a matter of a little more planning, and allocating a bit more in the way of public resources to a worthwhile foster program. Maybe the federal government could reduce a tad the number of down and out refugees from around the world who are being (hopefully!) vetted and admitted to the U.S., and supported by various aid and programs (housing, education, medical, etc.), and redeploy some of those resources to supporting a better funded program for our own down and out.
With a little more of the art and science of compassion.
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