Gee: When guilt by association becomes all too real
I would love to tell you that I was perfect back in high school, but we all know that’s not true.
One day while growing up a student at Howe Military School, Col. Vandemeer, my teacher, had to leave the room. We were told to stay in class until the bell rang, and then leave.
Do you think that is what happened? Nope. We had other plans.
About six of us in the class decided we could get away with taking off to the gym to play basketball. We kind of figured we could be back over to class in 30 minutes. About 10 minutes in, I had to use the restroom.
Now I could have used the restroom at the gym, but for some reason I decided to head back to the academic building. After that, I just ended up going back to class. Right when I sat down, Sgt. Reed, one of the other teachers, came to the class and did a quick roll call.
“I hear we had some students leave,” he said.
Now I’m thinking to myself, “wow, did I get lucky or what?”
To make a long story short, the other five got caught for being at the gym, losing free time that weekend. When you’re at military school, free time is everything on the weekend.
The following week I was in the academic building (where classes were held), and I bumped into Mr. Piper, the principal.
“Mr. Scott, isn’t it interesting that five kids in your class got in trouble last week for skipping class to go to the gym? I bet when you found out they were going to the gym, it was hard for you to make good decisions,” he said.
“Yes sir!” I responded.
“Scott, never forget: The more people involved in doing the wrong thing, the dumber the plan gets,” he said. “I bet that if I investigate further, there’s a little more to that story of what happened that day.”
What I learned that day was that just because you don’t get caught, doesn’t mean you’re not guilty.
Over the centuries people have come up with many clever ways to say the same thing.
“Birds of a feather flock together.”
“Guilt by association.”
“Peas in a pod.”
Any way you read or interpret these phrases, we know that people of the same sort or with the same tastes and interests will be found together. That is just the way it is.
We even see it around town. A guy has on a Seahawks hat and for a second, we have something in common with that person. A bond. A connection.
But what about the other side of the whole association argument? What does it mean when several of your closest associates are being investigated for pretty serious crimes? How likely is it that you get off free like I did in the story I shared earlier?
Aaron Hernandez had it all. He was young, good looking, talented, had a lot of money, and was living a life that many would dream of. However the nation watched as this man’s foolish determination to be the leader of some sort of subset peer group ultimately led to his demise.
While Tom Brady went on to win more Super Bowls, Hernandez died in prison, convicted of murder.
With all of the resources Hernandez had, why didn’t he lift up the peer group he was trying so hard to win the favor of?
Going in a different direction, how many lives have been lost out there in the “streets” of life because a group of people foolishly followed a charismatic leader into a life of crime, only to take the fall for a guy who really didn’t have their best interests at heart?
So, when I see a person dodge trouble, while everyone around them seems to be under scrutiny of the law, I cannot help but have some questions as to just how squeaky clean this guy is, surrounded by so many people of questionable character.
This may shock you, but that wasn’t the only time I was with a group of people doing something we shouldn’t be doing, and I got away with it.
Some of you have followed the things I share for years now, and you may notice that I try to lead my children to a life of being a leader. Of course, I feel this is their calling, and will ultimately create a lifetime of opportunity for them.
But at the same time, I don’t ever want my sons to follow a person into a culture of disaster. I want them to be leaders who steer others into great things for themselves, not to have my sons be leaders who use people as pawns in their own personal chess games.
In the story I shared earlier, I was a kid; I didn’t know what I know now. But what I do know, is that even back then, I knew right from wrong, and something didn’t seem right about what I was doing in the gym that day.
Rather than hanging with the pack, I knew that I needed to get back to class.
When we see person after person on TV headed to courtrooms for their sentencing, I feel no sympathy for those who chose to follow the pack, or foolishly follow a leader into a situation that led them to lose everything.
Truth be told, we are who we associate ourselves with, and I will always feel it is fair to judge a man by the company he keeps.