Category Archives: Blog

The Lucky Ones

156HWhen I glance through our family photo collection, I relive a wealth of cheerful moments. In the pictures, my two young boys frolic on playgrounds, blow out birthday candles, and pose with giant, walking versions of their favorite cartoon characters. They throw their hands wide in celebration, or put them around each other to show fleeting brotherly love. They hike a trail in Maui, climb a mountain in British Columbia, splash in a lake in northern Wisconsin.

In between those moments, their lives are occasionally marked by endurable hardships and imperfections we don’t tend to capture digitally. But for the most part, the pictures accurately portray the lives of comfort, safety, and security my children are fortunate to enjoy.

They did not earn this life—it was bestowed upon them.

As I scanned the news headlines and images a few days ago, I came across a very different sort of family picture. In the photograph, a young girl and an even younger boy frantically cling to each other as they are swept up in a sea of heavily armed men in helmets and fatigues. The children’s mouths hang open while their eyes clench tight in mid-wail, the looks of sheer, blind terror shrouding their little faces. Nearby stands a man who is likely a father or relative, but his presence seems to bring them no comfort—he is as powerless as the children in the face of the soldiers.

The picture captures the one family’s attempt to cross the border from Greece into the country of Macedonia, whose soldiers had clearly received orders not to welcome the foreigners with open arms. Though the nationality of these particular children is unknown, the majority of refugees attempting the crossing are Syrians fleeing the relentless violence in their home country, part of a civil war that began in 2011 and shows no signs of ceasing anytime soon.

These two innocent children and hundreds of others like them appeared at the Balkan back door because they wanted to survive. To know a life in which buildings stay upright, schools stay open, and loved ones stay alive.

Like many people, I have become somewhat inured to the headlines and pictures documenting the myriad civil wars, terrorist acts, and crimes against humanity taking place all over the world. At times, I have been guilty of skipping over such articles in favor of lighter fare, celebrity-focused stories that my brain and my heart can handle.

But the smallness and the palpable terror of these children grabbed hold of me and won’t let me go. The children in this picture cannot possibly understand what is happening to them. Why their tiny little bodies are being battered and jostled, why the grownups won’t protect them, why the men with the big guns won’t let them pass.

They cannot understand why they are so unlucky.

All of which reminds me of what my own children cannot yet understand. That but for some inexplicable stroke of luck, they could have been the ones fighting their way across a dangerous border guarded by scary men with coal-black weapons. Or the ones treated as unwelcome outsiders simply because of where they were born. Or the ones living under the threat of expulsion back to a homeland torn apart by genocide, famine, and war.

For now, they are just the lucky ones.

Recent articles about Syrian refugee crisis:

Et tu, Jared?

subwayOh, Jared. Jared, Jared, Jared.

Something about your smile and your pleated khaki slacks had me leaning instinctively away from the very beginning. I found your awkwardness simultaneously off-putting and endearing, your tolerance for low-quality deli meat appalling.

Watch Jared’s first Subway commercial

But you kept the weight off! And you ran a marathon! And you started a charity to fight childhood obesity! Plus, you never seemed to go away, appearing on Subway commercials for fifteen years, which made me think you must be okay, that millions of American hoagie-eaters couldn’t be wrong.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and I never suspected you of being anywhere near as despicable as you turned out to be. I had you figured for an overzealous Settlers of Catan fanatic, maybe, or the guy who still wears a mouth guard at 23. Minor infractions, little annoyances, that’s what I had you pegged for.

So even I was shocked to hear recent reports that you have admitted to—and will shortly plead guilty to—engaging in horrifying, illegal acts with kids. And we’re not talking the kind of illegal that ends in you picking up trash on the highway to fulfill your community service hours. The stuff you’ve admitted to is the kind of illegal that destroys lives and lands you in prison.

While the details are still fuzzy, the allegations involve you trolling the Internet for underage partners and crossing state lines to have sex with young girls. Reports also indicate that you conspired with Russell Taylor, the executive director of your charity, to secretly videotape children while they showered and changed in his home. It has also been reported that you knew your friend Taylor was repeatedly abusing a 14-year-old girl, and you never came forward. I even came across a humiliating accusation involving you and a horse, but I suppose I shouldn’t put too much stock in reporting from the folks at The Inquisitr.

In short, the FBI is alleging that you are a monster.

Despite the severity of the charges against you, perhaps I should not have been surprised to hear them. In the age of smarmaticians like Jerry Sandusky, Bill Cosby and Josh Duggar, very little amazes me anymore. A glance at the television here, a scan of the newspaper there, and I’m ready to hide my children under a mattress until they come of age.

I find myself wondering how I can keep my kids safe in the age of the Internet. I ask myself how can I be sure that my 7-year-old is cranky because he’s tired, and not because he’s been targeted by a sick adult. I struggle with the dilemma of how to educate my kids about sexual predators without making them terrified of the world.

Parenting is already tough, Jared, and assholes like you and your friend make it a hell of a lot harder. I already have to worry about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, the skyrocketing cost of college, and the possibility that my kids have inherited my mutant genes for rosacea and insanely bushy eyebrows. So what I don’t need in my life is a narcissistic pedophile posing as a congenial fast food spokesman and champion of children’s health.

Okay, deep breath.

I’m not going to hide my kids under a mattress, Jared. I’m not going to forbid them walking to the neighbor’s house alone, nor am I going to stop them from developing relationships with trusted adults. But thanks to you and others like you, I will always have to watch a little longer, look a little harder, and question a little more. Thanks to you, we parents have a little more trouble sleeping, a little harder time trusting, and a lot more difficulty letting our kids just be kids.

You and your friend did that, Jared, and you deserve whatever punishment you receive.

Here’s hoping the Party Sub will be big enough for all your new friends in prison.

Recent articles on the Jared Fogle story: