Norwood's single main street, with laundromat and diner, presents a working-class contrast to the lavish Telluride ski and summer resort 33 miles away. (Barry Bortnick/Bloomberg News)
One of the most popular stories on The Denver Post website for several days is also one of the most unnerving: It's the saga of a 13-year-old boy in Norwood, a town in San Miguel County in western Colorado, who was sodomized on a wrestling trip to Denver last year and victimized again by the community when his assailants were punished.
We suspect many readers have been transfixed by the story for the same reason we were: the shock at reading how townspeople rallied to the defense of the boy's assailants and denounced the victim's family for reporting the incident to police.
"When I was in school there might have been bullying, but there was none of this crap about telling the school," a waitress at the Hitchin' Post Cowboy Bar told Bloomberg News reporters. "How you going to be tough if you don't get bullied sometimes?"
As a spokeswoman for the Denver district attorney's office explained, "There was a huge backlash, and everybody turned against this boy and his family for bringing trouble to their town."
But of course the boy and his family didn't bring trouble. The three older students who seized the 13-year-old on an empty school bus and then, as the article described it, "bound him with duct tape and sodomized him with a pencil" were responsible for the furor. And yet they were widely defended as boys just being boys, while the victim's family eventually had to pull up stakes and move.
Sodomizing a 13-year-old is just boys being boys? Not in any civilized community we're familiar with. Not only is the behavior indefensible -- so are attempts to explain it away.
Unfortunately, explaining away inexcusable behavior seems to be the default position of too many people when someone they like is involved. Consider the extraordinary outpouring of support for chef Paula Deen since Food Network canned her on Friday after she admitted, in a legal deposition, to using and tolerating racist language.
"Everyone in this nation has used a racist comment at one time or another," proclaimed one of her legion of supporters on the network's Facebook page. "She grew up in the South, and why did [the plaintiff in the lawsuit] wait so long to even make an issue, more money?"
Actually, there are plenty of Americans who have never resorted to racist comments. And the idea that growing up in the South gives anyone a license to talk like a bigot is an insult to the South.
Food Network made a perfectly reasonable decision to release one of its most recognizable personalities after learning of her apparently high tolerance for racially charged jokes and other offensive language. And her supporters, like those people in Norwood who defended the sodomized boy's assailants, ought to think about reassessing their own loyalties
--The Denver Post, June 24