Do you hate me?
Wait, that’s a stupid question. Of course you hate me. That’s a given. And frankly, it’s understandable. I mean, let’s be honest, even I hate me most of the time. After all the things I’ve done, how could you not hate me? And since you don’t know me personally, you really have no way of knowing how much I’ve changed and grown, how different I am – how I’m not even a shadow of the piece of trash human I was in 2010 or 2012; so for now, let’s just assume you hate me. Which is fine.
No hard feelings.
But what if I told you, “You shouldn’t.” Crazy, right?
I know; at first you think to yourself, “Yeah, I probably should. Why shouldn’t I hate you?” And that, I might add, is a very valid question. It is also a question I wouldn’t mind asking a woman named Debbie, who writes (or at least used to write) a blog called “Confessions of a Mediocre Mormon Mom.”
The blog is mostly a harmless and mundane stay-at-home-mom blog, populated with recipes, or uplifting inspirational this-and-that, or a light commentary on some timely-relevant event, or whatever recent Mormon mediocre intricacy fits her writing fancy. Honestly, it’s really not that interesting.
But then, there’s her blog about me.
She wrote it during the summer between my March 2012 arrest and my November 2012 sentencing. Evidently her daughter was one of my students at some point – no clue who her daughter was; don’t care – and since she had that “connection” to me, she decided to pitch-in her own two-cents about me. She repeated most of the same blathering that every other internet keyboard expert had to say, and most of that didn’t matter to me. I mean, her writing didn’t exactly hold high amounts of credibility with sentences that included statements like “…my daughter says the rumors at the school confirm…” I mean, really? Rumors confirm? She even attempts to state a rumor as fact, saying I “wasn’t allowed to have female proctors” for my classroom. Again, not true. I had proctors of both genders every year I taught. So yeah, that’s when she effectively stepped off of the credibility train.
But then, soon after I was sentenced to prison, she actually updated it. At my sentencing hearing, my initiative to be a voice against teacher-student relationships was mentioned extensively in court (and was broadcast on television); which apparently infuriated this Mediocre Mom. She comically theorized that I was somehow trying to “turn a profit” from my experience. And then she went on to accuse me of “blaming” my former student for our relationship, based on nothing but her own supposition and the “rumors” told to her by her high school daughter. I could only shake my head. This had well-surpassed ridiculousness. When true altruism is misconstrued as greed, the person harboring the perception is the person with the issue.
I recently asked a few close friends, “Is it inappropriate for me, being who I am, to be the one willing to speak-out about teacher-student relationships?” And my favorite answer was, “You, being who you are, makes it exactly appropriate that you be the one.” And if you knew this person, you’d know she wasn’t just being falsely supportive. So that was encouraging.
I’m still a little perplexed about Mediocre Debbie’s supposition that I was in it to “turn a profit.” No writer makes money off his first book, and I’d already said multiple times on my original website that I would refuse any attempt to pay me for speaking – a stipulation I maintain, by the way. And she also thought I was “blaming” my former student because I talked about how teachers should maintain boundaries between themselves and students (which somehow translated to her thinking I wanted to guard teachers from all these sexually-advancing teenagers, banging on classroom doors with bags full of condoms and heads full of ideas. Okay, that was hyperbole, but you get the point. Her errant assumptions became inflated into such an inconceivable scenario of what-ifs, which would be comical if it wasn’t such a serious issue.
But again, none of this bothered me. None of her ramblings gave me any cause for unease or irritation. I’d read all of this when I returned home from prison, and I was as just numb to as I was when I’d read this sort of uninformed commentary on the news websites two years earlier, before prison. And reading it again, it still didn’t upset me.
But it does puzzle me in one way: This woman interjects her religion into the title of her Blog; she has another blog comparing her religion to Christianity; but when it comes to evaluating someone who was in the midst repentance, seeking forgiveness and redemption, all of a sudden, I’m not worthy, I’m dishonest, and I’m a liar? I mean, I don’t read the Book of Mormon, but I do know that Mormons still read the Bible. And if she thinks my heart is so black and evil, and I am so dishonest, and I have no room for ever repenting and being a good person, then I would advise her to rip out the pages of her Bible about Saul, a multiple-murderer, who eventually became Paul and wrote a significant amount of the New Testament; and also rip out the pages about David, who was an adulterer and a murderer, but was also referred to by God Himself as “A man after my own heart” after his heart-felt repentance. So why am I not allowed to follow the examples in the Bible after I sin? Why am I not allowed to repent? Why am I not allowed to do everything in my power to right the wrongs I’ve committed? Why?
She closes her blog about me with this thought:
“Maybe I am wrong and am being an overprotective mother. Maybe he has truly been changed and is doing this website, book and publicity for the good of humanity. Personally though, I don’t think so.”
Let me break that one down…
But hey you, Stranger. Look around. Another teacher was just arrested for having a relationship with a student. Yep. Another one. And guess what’s being done: Nothing. Sure, the teacher will be sent to jail in shame and released into anonymity and shame, never to be heard from again, and the teachers still teaching, having serial relationships with students and not getting caught, will continue to think they’re invincible. Because no one actually stands in front of them, in the flesh, and says, “Look at me. This is what a ruined life looks like.”
Don’t you think I’m the person to carry that message? Mediocre Debbie doesn’t think so.
But ask yourself, even though you may hate me – and that’s fine – why am I not the perfect person to write about and speak about teacher-student relationships? Why am I not the perfect person to show teachers what to look for in their colleagues who may be having an inappropriate relationship with a student? Why am I not the perfect person to expose the current educational culture that covers-up the allegations when the’re not brought to the attention of Law Enforcement?
If you can think of someone better, please, let me know.
Otherwise, keep with the hate. I’m fine with that. Because the hate of my enemies fuels me to strive for a better good. I have repented. I have been forgiven.
Now it is time to seek redemption. And the only way I know to do that is to be the loudest possible voice against the very sin for which I am best — and worst — known.