As the whole Manti Te’o/”Lennay Kekua saga” continues with information swirling around us, I’ve been pondering what — in absence of the absolute truth — I can as (as a mother) share about this situation with my two sons. Our eldest is close to Manti’s age, and an equally gifted young man. Our youngest, a high school senior, is perched on the edge of his future. As with so many stories like this, my frame of reference comes from wanting to make this a “teachable moment” for all of us.
Not to make light of the situation, but this Youtube clip swirling around the social networks (and brought up in my memory by my stellar brother in-law David) reminds us that “pretend” girlfriends and boyfriends are not a new thing in the Facebook era:
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not accusing Manti of making up his own gorgeous female version of “George Glass”. I’m just reminding us all that technology is not to blame here.
Additionally, my stomach turns every time I look at this series of tweets from the fictitious “@LennayKay” on Twitter:
Real tweets from the “real” (that is “made up”) LK? No… news organizations are reporting that the account was closed and this is likely a troll who reopened an new version of the account and who thinks collecting followers on a fake account is fun…
In the absence of a statement from Manti Te’o himself, again my “mom mind” is thinking about the takeaways from this mess. The primary object lesson seems to be the need for all of us to cling to the truth in our own lives. I am not saying Manti didn’t — I still believe that he is the victim here. I’m simply saying that little lies have a way of morphing into big, bad lies.
Additionally, in an age when we are all so incredibly wired, I want my boys to be cautious and safe. Does that mean never befriending online contacts? No, absolutely not. I can attest to several very real online friendships, some of which have morphed into deep relationships. In fact, one of the happiest couples I know met online and married after a predominantly online courtship. But in a world where people seem to derive way too much pleasure from hurting one another, I want my sons to learn to err on the side of caution.
Lastly, I want to discuss with my sons the very disturbing fact that our world often seems gleeful at the pain of others, especially at that of fallen “heroes”. Humility, respect, and keeping your mouth shut are all skills I’d like to better practice in my own life as I model for my sons — in many ways, my boys teach me these important lessons in Christian behavior by the way they lead their lives. A very astute commenter on my last Manti post shared the following comment:
To anyone looking for hope or just some perspective (and who isn’t after Fr. Maciel, Fr. Corapi, Bishop Weakland, Joe Paterno, Lance Armstrong…), I recommend this read on standing alongside our fellow – frauds: http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/pdf/eng55.pdf (warning: it’s long and at times slow going, but it is rewarding) In summary: “how do we [sinners caught up in fraudulent forms of apparent goodness] plan to hear Paul’s warning words? By making ourselves judges over others we consider more fraudulent than ourselves, or by sitting alongside our brother frauds and working out with their help, and with fear and trembling, what it looks like to be hoiked off into the new Creation?”
We may never know the real answers to what happened in this situation — ultimately Manti and his family may be the only ones who have the absolute truth. On a day when we’ll watch Lance Armstrong’s confession to Oprah after several years of absolute dishonesty, we know the world of sports is often very complex and fraught with peril. Let’s tread carefully here.