Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Nov. 23, 1999 /13 Kislev, 5760

Bob Greene

Bob Greene
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
David Corn
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Arianna Huffington
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Robert Samuelson
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Cathy Young
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports
Weekly Standard


Who'll say 'I'm sorry' to the other Decatur students? -- AMID ALL THE SHOUTS and bluster during the Jesse Jackson-led school showdown in Decatur, three quiet sentences ring more poignant than all the loud threats and accusations.

Those three sentences -- they were reported by the Chicago's Tribune's Flynn McRoberts at the end of a story on the tensions in Decatur -- were spoken by a 16-year-old high school junior named Robert Ryan. The boy, like all of Decatur's 3,000 high school students, had not attended a full day of classes in more than a week.

"I've been missing too much school," Ryan said. "I'm starting to forget everything. My main problem is U.S. history -- the Constitution and stuff like that."

His voice is a reminder that there are interested parties other than Rev. Jackson, than the expelled students who took part in the stadium fight, than the school board, than the county prosecutor. To watch and read the news reports, you'd think the people just listed were the only ones with a stake.

But what of the students in Decatur who had nothing to do with the fight -- students who perhaps weren't even at the football game? What about the students who simply want to go to school and try to learn? Students who--imagine this--may have been at the library the night of the stadium fight?

You'd think, from all the coverage of Jackson's showdown, that those students -- the students who are not a part of the anger, who just go to school -- are irrelevant. But an argument can be made that they have more relevance than anyone -- that it is their rights, more than anyone else's, that have been grievously violated.

They were kept out of school for far too long -- because of something they had nothing to do with. And now that they are back, their entire school year has been defined by this. This won't be the year they remember for a teacher who helped them think about something in a new way, or for a great book they read that moved them, or for a game the basketball team won. This will forever be the year of the stadium fight, and all that followed.

"I've been missing too much school," Robert Ryan said. "I'm starting to forget everything." Perhaps Rev. Jackson truly believes that the school board and the people of Decatur owe an apology to the young men who brawled in the stands -- but a strong case can be made that Rev. Jackson owes a heartfelt apology to Robert Ryan, and the students like him who wanted to go to school, and could not, and were worried that they were falling behind in their work.

Not that anyone should hold their breath waiting for Jackson to apologize. He descended into foolishness when he was confronted with the videotape of the fight -- a tape he had never seen and, presumably, was unaware of -- and, instead of admitting that he had been misled by those who had characterized the brawl in mild terms, began embarrassing himself by trying to explain away the violence. No worse than a hockey game, he said; the real violence is being committed by the authorities who are charging the brawlers with crimes, he said.

Jackson reached his zenith of absurdity late last week when -- this is perfect, in our current America -- he sued the school district on behalf of the young men who fought in the stadium, asking in court that each expelled student be given $5 million. Why? Because, according to Jackson's lawsuit, when the school board rebutted his public allegations about what was being done to the expelled students by pointing out certain facts about some of the students' poor attendance records and third-year-freshman status, the school administrators did so "for the expressed purpose of putting out their point of view in the controversy surrounding the expulsion of the students."

Thus, Jackson's suit contended, each of the students who fought during the football game should be given $5 million.

To use an apt analogy: You've got to pick your fights. Jackson picked a loser -- and instead of escalating his threats when the videotape surfaced, he should have sternly and honestly said to those who brought him to town: You owe me, and your city, an apology.

You may think the two-year expulsions were excessive -- maybe they were. But whomever you blame in all of this, there is one point you cannot dispute:

The students who only wanted to go to school -- to be students -- were guilty of nothing. This is not their fault. Who will say "I'm sorry" to them?

JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


11/18/99: "From bad things, good can come"
11/16/99: The man who didn't know the meaning of 'whatever'
11/12/99: Is this progress? We have made the weekend obsolete
11/09/99: Today he would probably be called Kyle Kramden
11/04/99: And you thought the IRS was heartless
11/02/99: When it's free, what will the real price be?
10/29/99: The tissue-thin decisions that define who we are
10/26/99: One way to cut road rage down to size
10/22/99: Asking all the right questions takes a special pitch
10/18/99: The signs are talking to you; Are you listening?
10/12/99: Even Capone would be disgusted
10/08/99: Don't ever look your neighborhood bear in the eye
10/06/99: Land of the free and marketplace of the brave
10/04/99: German warplanes in American skies
09/30/99: While you fret, something is sneaking up on you
09/28/99: In these busy times, why not bring back a certain buzz?
09/24/99: The storms whose paths no one can track
09/21/99: Who's minding the store? Oh . . . never mind
09/17/99:Here's another place where you can't smoke
09/14/99: As certainly as `lovely Rita' follows `when I'm 64' . . .
09/09/99: Why is patience no longer a virtue?
09/07/99: Once upon a time, in an airport close to you . . .
09/03/99: The answers? They are right in front of us
09/01/99: Up the creek with a paddle--and cussing up a storm
08/30/99: $1 Million Question: How'd we get to be so stup-d?
08/27/99: Fun and games at Camp Umbilical Cord
08/25/99: How life has been changed by the woodpecker effect
08/23/99: If you don't like this story, blame the robot who wrote it
08/20/99: A four-letter word that has helped both Bob and Rhonda
08/18/99: They have picked the wrong country
08/16/99: From paperboy to stalker--how the news has changed
08/12/99: Why wasn't anyone watching his brothers?
08/10/99: Come to think of it, stars seldom are the retiring type
08/05/99: The national gaper's block is always jammed
07/29/99: 'Can you imagine the gift you gave me?'
07/27/99: A view to a kill -- but is this really necessary?
07/23/99: Some cream and sugar with your turbulence?
07/21/99: When your name is JFK jr., how do you choose to use it?
07/19/99: The real world is declared not real enough
07/15/99: The real victims of cruel and unusual punishment
07/13/99: A 21st Century idea for schools: log off and learn
07/09/99: Are life's sweetest mysteries still around the bend?
07/07/99: Of great minds, cream cheese and Freddy Cannon
07/02/99: The perfect spokesman for the American way
06/30/99: 'He's 9 years old . . . he trusts people'
06/28/99: A $581 million jackpot in the courthouse casino
06/25/99: A nighttime walk to a House that feels like a cage
06/23/99: At least give men credit for being more morose
06/18/99: On Father's Day, a few words about mothers
06/16/99: If work is a dance, how's your partner doing?
06/14/99: Should a dictionary ever tell you to keep quiet?
06/10/99: A story of Sex, the SuperBowl and your wife
06/07/99: Take a guess where "California Sun" is from
06/03/99: Of summer days, summer nights and pebbles in a jar
06/01/99: Putting your money where their mouths are
05/27/99: Pressed between wooden covers, the summer of her life
05/25/99:The lingering song of a certain summer
05/24/99:We could all use a return to the Buddy system
05/20/99: Now, this is enough to make James Bond double-0 depressed 05/17/99: It's midnight -- do you know where your parents are?
05/13/99: And now even saying "thank you" creates a problem
05/11/99: The answer was standing at the front door

©1999, Tribune Media Services