Having spent 10 years teaching video to at-risk and/or incarcerated youth, I learned that rarely are kids ‘all bad’. In most instances, once you dig into family history and education their crimes and transgressions usually make more sense. And while hardships and ignorance are never an excuse for bad behavior—whether criminal or otherwise—it certainly helps understand how some young boys on the verge of manhood make decisions that greatly harm others—and ultimately themselves.
Given that the male brain isn’t fully developed until the mid-20’s, the onus is on the adults of society to determine what (or who) went wrong and to determine the protocol of rehabilitation so the youth returns to society, better than when he left.
Over the past couple weeks, Tennessee finds itself wrestling with the inappropriate and adolescent behavior of two grown, professional men in the Legislature. Two powerful men who are ‘deal makers’ with influence. House Speaker Glen Casada and his top aide Cade Cothren have been exposed for behavior that is more in line with Beavis and Butthead than what is expected (or tolerated) from educated, responsible, respectful leaders.
After reading the laundry list of offenses including a series of text messages involving solicitation for oral sex, naked photos from interns, seeking sex with lobbyists, referring to women as ‘cunts’, it is difficult not to draw comparisons between their antics and those young boys in juvenile justice with poor boundaries and bad decision making skills.
What went wrong with Glen Casada and his top aide? What led them to believe that their ‘boys will be boys’ indiscretions, degradations and abuses of power were acceptable? What kind of entitlement must they both feel to behave in such a reckless and disrespectful manner expecting to ‘fly under the radar’?
While Governor Bill Lee has publicly stated that if TN House Speaker Glen Casada worked for him, he would ask for his resignation, Casada insists he’s ‘been forgiven’ and not going anywhere. The question remains ‘by whom’ and for what?
Forgiven for ‘getting caught’? Forgiven for exposing misogynistic and malicious comments about women, minorities and gay people?
Since when does a public servant who has violated and squandered the trust of his constituents and demonstrated he is not ‘adult’ enough to ethically perform his professional duties, not subject to dismissal?
We are at a crucial time in history. Overt bigotry, misogyny and anti-gay sentiment is at an all time high. The current administration in our nation’s capital has encouraged racism, anti-immigrant, anti-gay sentiments and promoted bigoted policies that are setting our country back decades.
Thankfully for Tennesseans, many of Casada’s associates--including Lt. Governor Randy McNally and others--agree with the Governor about Casada’s resignation.
Whether Republican or Democrat, we must not only replace the Glen Casada’s and Cade Cothren’s in TN if there is ever to be any renewed trust in leaders—but we must also ensure that those selected to replace them hold themselves to a higher standard of ethics, consciousness and behavior.
Perhaps both Casada’s and Cothren’s adolescent and unconscionable behaviors are a cry for help or sending up a flare that their growth into responsible ‘manhood’ was somehow stunted. Much like troubled adolescents, their disregard for human decency and unethical actions indicate something is seriously wrong.
There are still good people in the TN legislature and there are those who have long forgotten their original mission, succumbed to ambition and lost touch with their better selves.
In spite of his inability to represent the best interest of his constituents i.e. women, people of color, and the LBGTQ community, like the adolescents who learn the source of their strengths and weaknesses during incarceration, perhaps Casada’s resignation could provide him the same opportunity—to become his better self. Perhaps a period of reflection and penitence is in order.
And while Casada has clearly proven he does not presently have the maturity to be in a position that requires fairness and trust, perhaps his career need not be over. If after resigning Casada is still committed to public service, perhaps he could receive a year’s worth of counseling, sensitivity training and a semester of women’s history. Maybe then he would make a more trustworthy House Speaker—for all Tennesseans.
To all those in public office, stay persistent and gather strength around you—both Democrat and Republican. Keep encouraging each other to stand up for what is right—regardless of your party affiliation. Insist on Casada's resignation--together.
We must be the adults here. Whether incarcerated youth, professional atheletes or State Representatives, it seems boys will be men—only when they are held accountable.