Friday, July 2, 2010
This is a story that has been on my mind for three months now. I grew up in this small town. I will be the first to admit that my memories of my time there are mixed. It was a very small, comfortable, cozy place to grow up - at least until I was grown up enough to pay attention to what was going on around me and form my own opinion. As a small kid there was a big sense of community and trust. You really were not in fear of anything. You never worried about things that those in the "big city" did. As I grew older it was apparent that because my last name was not one of "those" last names or because my family was not in the right income bracket or the fact that I was being raised by a single mother -I would have to work a little harder to be a part of the "in" crowd. Please don't get me wrong, for a time I felt like there was no better place on the planet and the town was filled with the most caring, loving people in the world. Even after I was treated horribly by people I thought I could trust I still felt like there was no place I would have rather grown up. I won't go into the situation that caused me to move away from this town, get my own apartment and finish school (when I was in the 10th grade). It was one of the most heart wrenching experiences of my life. But it taught me many valuable lessons about honesty, trust, friendship and standing up for what you know is right- even if it means standing alone!
I learned a long time ago that people in this small can be some of the most caring people but also they are very judgemental of those that are not in there little "click" Di spite this and my experience the town of Malvern and it's people still held a very special place in my heart. My grandmother con tinted to live there after I moved and I visited her often. I also kept up on what was going on in town by getting the Malvern Leader! I had long ago gotten over my feelings of anger and bitterness toward the town and it's people. I had "reconnected" with a few former classmates, friends and all my "bad" times seemed to be replaced with fondness for the small town values and sense of community that I thought we all learned growing up in Malvern.
I got the news about this "sex abuse" case came out. I can not begin to explain the pure shock and disbelief I felt when I was first told about it. I had a lot of respect for Karl Hertz. He had buried the grandparents I loved and many, many relatives. I work in the area of Criminal Law, so hearing things like this this case do not shock me. What shocked me was that a person like Karl could be responsible for doing such a thing. That my little safe, loving, cozy hometown could have someone so evil. And not just ONE person but at least another. Then after the story broke there were people commenting that Karl was such a great guy, that he did so much for the community. To read those comments was to take me back to my time in Malvern when I did nothing wrong but was accused of crap and not many were willing to stand with me. I knew I had done nothing wrong despite all the false accusations against me. I suffered for months with name calling, stupid pranks and things being thrown at my house. I also quickly learned how rumors can take on a life of their own and how some with a "name" could get away with just about anything. So, when I first heard the news of this case I was not one to rush to judgment. But as I heard more it was clear to me that something was seriously wrong in the little "Norman Rockwell" town I grew up in. For people to simply dismiss the accusations by the young men simply because Karl "did so many good things for the community" Made me sick. Then I learned that apparently several people have known about this behavior for years but did nothing! To me, that was the most shocking. That people could simply look the other way and let there be other victims because it was "Karl Hertz" was just plain disgusting to me! Some even wanted to blame the victims saying they were just looking for money. Well, if you look at how some reacted even AFTER Karl killed himself, is it any wonder they did not come forward sooner??
I wrote the above a few nights ago. My intent was to continue with my thoughts about this story. But I am really just very conflicted to be able to put into words how I feel not just about this story but the small town that it seems allowed this to happen. The small town that taught me so much about people. I really have some very strong feelings -good and bad about this story and the people in Malvern. But, On Friday night I met a young man at a bar. He was 25 years old. He works for an organization that helps feed starving kids around the world. Talking to him really made me think about just what is important in life. Talking with him also reminded me of the guy I met in DC a few weeks ago. He told me the story of how he needed kidney and his partner was a match. So, his partner gave him a kidney. He told me how much "red tape" they had to go through. Because they can not be married and such they had to do all kinds of paper work just to be sure that if something happened during the operation the other would be able to visit etc. He told me that going through that experience prompted him to go work for a US Congressman and his partner to go to law school - all to work toward changing the law so that other do not have to experience the same thing. On that same trip I met two young men that were serving in the Military. They had been together for 4 years. They met while on duty in Iraq. Two men who answered the call to service in the name of our country, yet they had to hide their relationship. To them Don't Ask Don't tell is not some abstract policy that is debated by both political parities for political gain but a policy that means that if one of them is killed in action, the will not notify the other, a policy that means if the military finds out they are gay could discharge them, a policy that does not provide housing and a dozen other benefits for the "spouse" of the other. I also met two women who were living in South Carolina that were raising two of the most adorable kids. You might be asking what the hell does any of this have to do with the "sex scandal" in Malvern. Well, meeting these people and hearing their stories has helped serve as a reminder to me that there really are much more important things in the world than the opinion of small mined people in my hometown. I am not in any way trying to down play the seriousness of the charges in this case. Nor am I trying to say that what the victims suffered is not horrible. I am simply saying that I am not going to let the attitude of some people in that small town consume me with anger or hate. I learned a long time ago that most in that small town are more concerned about "appearance" than anything else. They will say one thing to your face and another behind your back. They will pretend to be your friend until it no longer will help them advance their agenda etc. I have experienced this first hand. My experience with the people in Malvern helped shape the rest of my life and I can truly say I am better for it.