With the school year drawing to a close all across the country (and don’t get me started on how the school year in the USA was originally designed for the children who were taught and how it’s shifted to be a tool that benefits the adults who operate it), items that might have been passed over without comment, really without being seen, become front lobe material.
Take for example the eight-month old tragedy that claimed the life of KeAir Swift, 14, in Eastpointe, Michigan who drowned in his school’s swimming pool. I confess to NOT having remembered or probably read (the absence of the latter explaining the former) the news account at the time. The semi-gothic novel part of the tale (signaled somewhat ominously I think by its mention here) concerns two teachers, Johnathon Sails, a substitute assigned to Swift’s class that day whose reaction, response and subsequent behavior is in sharp contrast to David Zauner a teacher at the school who dove into the pool fully clothed and attempted to rescue the young man.
We live in a curious time-people take responsibility for all manner of acts, both of commission and omission, without accepting punishment while the rest of us, rather than insisting people accept the consequences of their own making responsible instead believe “there’s got to be somebody we can sue.” And there almost always is.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to her/his day in court and Mr. Sails is getting his. As it happens, so, too, is Mr. Zauner but for curiously opposite reasons as the reward, at least near Detroit which would seem to have enough other problems, for doing a good deed is now grounds for dismissal as punishment of the innocent is too often part of our search for the guilty.
To be clear: I know neither teacher, nor anyone connected to them. The assumption and presumption of innocence is a given in our judicial system. All the trials of Job, and Johnathon and David, for that matter, will play themselves out in a time frame neither you nor I can pretend to guess. By the time that happens, lost in the depositions and prepositions will be the solitary life lost forever of a youngster who did not know how to swim but somehow ended up in a swimming class that resulted in his death.
Mark Twain is reported to have said (though I have never found it), “Everyday, a child is born who will change the world. We just don’t know which one it is.” KeAir was a short time here and a long time gone, whose death is a personal and familial tragedy but also produces a ripple that crosses generations and other artifices that separate rather than join us together.