The Varsity Blues Scandal is the humiliation that keeps on giving. More headlines this week. More wealthy people headed to the hoosegow. Another herd of gazillionaires in handcuffs.
Schadenfreude seems to be the most popular response: Schadenfreude from the German, “schaden” meaning “damage” and “freude” translated as “nanny, nanny, boo, boo.” Ha! You wouldn’t go on a date with me and now your mother had been trampled by a moose!
Justice-based schadenfreude is not just taking joy in the misfortune of others but jumping up and down because a bad person gets smacked. That’ll learn ya. Dick Wolfe is living comfortably on our appetite for seeing bad people punished.
Nobody is happy about Lear stumbling around in the unrelenting storm. Lear is a “man more sinned against than sinning.” We are sad for Lear, empathetic. He messed up. He gave away his kingdom to his Tiger Daughters and ignored Cordelia who loved him. Oopsie! Could happen to anybody. Whereas these penthouse dwelling celebs and financiers made mistakes that nobody else could afford or conceive. They have earned our approbation.
Or have they?
Because I only feel sorry for them.
Yes, they lied about their children being athletes. Yes, they got in bed with the devil and got their just desserts. Yes, they thought that admission to USC—USC! Can you imagine?—would give them and their progeny social cache. Yes, they thought that where their kids matriculated was more important than who their kids were.
But the real tragedy is that they didn’t know anything about their kids, that they undoubtedly missed the unadulterated joy that comes from just being with your kids. Did their kids care about going to colleges where they wouldn’t have been admitted absent hyperbolic fraud? I’m guessing it was the parents driving the deception bus.
What could these parents have been thinking? That my child will be happier at USC than at North Cornstalk State? In my experience, kIds want to go where they belongs. Kids want to be with their friends. Kids want the college application process to be about insight and self-discovery. Kids want to become knowledgeable about options—I want to study business, but Princeton doesn’t have an undergraduate degree in management; I guess I should consider schools that do offer the subjects in which I am interested. Kids want to be treated like adults, not like commodities.
Those of us with kids who are grown and gone will remember the twack! of having kids. Tossing a ball with your kid is the greatest pleasure there is. Twack! Not because you think your child will earn a million dollars as a professional baseball player. Twack! Not because you think your child will be better than neighborhood friends. Twack! Because your child doesn’t have brain cancer. Twack! Because it’s nice out. Twack! Because your kid has ten fingers and ten toes. Twack! Because there’s no place else on the planet that either or you would rather be. Twack! Because it’s just hilariously joyful to toss a ball. (Or bake some cookies or build a canoe.)
Knowing nothing of the wealthy folks going to jail, maybe I shouldn’t suggest whether or not they hired someone to throw a ball with their kids the same way that they hired someone to write admissions essays for their kids and paid someone to commit fraud and get their kids admitted to Snotnose University.
But it still makes me sad.