Wednesday, March 15, 2006

OJ, Kobe, Kirby

The use of the terms "domestic violence," "family violence," "spouse abuse," and "woman abuse" is problematic. Each term is limited. Relationship violence isn't limited to those who live together, as implied by domestic violence and family violence. Women who are not married are sometimes abused, so spouse abuse leaves them out. The term woman abuse (or the more commonly used wife beating) focus on the woman, the victim, completely ignoring the man, who, it really needs to be acknowledged, are the problem.

The words we use are important. Moosey Fate doesn't want to be called a bride, for reasons that she has elaborated quite clearly. The fight about pro-life/pro-choice/anti-murder/pro-abortion terms is controversial and neverending. I had a friend who decided, as she entered ninth grade, that "Becky" was not a good label for her and that she would be known as Rebecca from that point on.

In the course of a week, I heard stories about how "Kobe" has a new line of Nike shoes that has just been released. I heard how "OJ" was interested in new endorsement deals and is hoping that Bryant's new success on and off the basketball court will help him. And, to be honest, the more upsetting, was the story of "Kirby," "The Puck," and his recent death.

I'm sorry the man died. I hoped it was painless and I feel for his family.

But let's discuss the news coverage of "Kirby." He was a great baseball player. He was the face of the Twins. He was a lover of the game. People are very sad he died. He was so young.

Occasionally there would be a comment to the effect that Kirby has some demons in his life after he left baseball, but people really hoped he would be remembered as a great baseball player.

Some demons? Puckett's ex-wife, Tonya, told police that he threatened to kill her during a telephone conversation. Over the years, Puckett had also tried to strangle her with an electrical cord, locked her in the basement and used a power saw (a power saw!) to cut through a door after she had locked herself in a room. Once, she said, he even put a cocked gun to her head while she was holding their young daughter (thanks to Sports Illustrated). He also had a history of sexual harassment, and, in 2002, was charged with criminal sexual conduct (granted, he was not convicted).

Yeah, I imagine the victims of "those demons" of "Kirby's" will be glad to hear that they should be forgotten so that the man who beat,harassedd, and raped them could be remembered as a great baseball player.

And, as I am living in Minnesota, I was inundatedd with stories about this man. And the most interesting phenomena was the use of Kirby Puckett's first name in all these stories. This was particularly rampant in radio news stories. Kirby was a hero. My memories of baseball start with Kirby. Kirby was such a happy player. Kirby was the Twins. Kirby this. Kirby that.

We've given him power. Just like we have given OJ Simpson and Kobe Bryant power. To hurt women. To hurt the communities in which these woman live. By using his first name, we are acting like Puckett is our FRIEND, a pal, a guy who lives down the street, when really he is nothing more than a man who is guilty of ripping apart the seams of our lives by engaging in acts of violence that are morally and legally wrong.

We tell toddlers to "use their words." I implore people to do more than "use words," but to stop and think about words before they use them. Take the power of the English language and harness it for good.

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