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Another opportunity for change, real change, has been lost

And so here we are, more than three months later, and not one thing has changed.

Not one thing.

Was there opportunity to affect change in the wake of the postgame hubbub back on Feb. 5, when police were called to Ledyard High School after adult-generated chaos ruined the end of a basketball game? Undeniably. There was opportunity to elevate black-and-white thinking into that more enlightened, grayish hue, the opportunity to get the kids from Ledyard and Bacon Academy together, learn more about each other and from each other.

An opportunity for parental forums in both towns to better understand how incessant catcalls from the bleachers create a more unstable environment for the kids.

Steps forward in the noble endeavors of choosing our words and actions better.

Instead? We're all back in our corners, angrier than ever, pointing fingers, spewing rhetoric and our versions of moral outrage. The more things change ...

In Ledyard, there was a protest scheduled for outside Ledyard High School on Wednesday night to address "incidents involving hate speech (and) use of racial slurs."

In Ledyard, superintendent Jay Hartling sounds like someone still in search of closure, responding to the inability of the state's attorney to prosecute. "Whether criminal charges are filed or not, it doesn't excuse the horrible behavior and impact it had on our students and our community," he said.

In Colchester, first selectman Andreas Bisbikos, who appears more unimpressive with his every ensuing syllable, demanded an apology from Hartling with the verve of Khrushchev banging his shoe on the table. Mr. Bisbikos uses the bewildering logic that because the state's attorney could not prosecute any one person, none of this ever happened.

In the dreaded HCS (Human Comments Section), the alarming inability to stay on point turned the chaotic postgame scene of a basketball game into a referendum on free speech, encouraging one agenda-ridden dullard to wonder if the entire thing was a hoax.

Three months later. Opportunities to learn. Opportunities to listen. Opportunities to edify. Instead, the more things change ...

The wheels grind without traction here because the solution, rather than the adults coming to the village green for simple conversation, was to dive in the minutiae of the legal process. As if the vagaries of whether alleged racist language uttered after the game rose to the status of a hate crime would to anything but create a wider chasm.

But aren't wider chasms the byproduct of how we've chosen to treat those who disagree with us?

The legal process, which continues to disappoint around here, gave us "racially offensive language is abhorrent in any context," which masters the obvious right up there with "many NBA players are tall."

And now here we are. Protesting in Ledyard. Posturing in Colchester. Nowhere closer to the truth.

"A voice arguing for our complete rightness and the complete wrongness of our enemies, a voice constantly broadening the definition of 'enemy,' relieves us of the burden of living with ambiguity," author George Saunders wrote in "The Braindead Microphone."

The burden of living with ambiguity is that very moment when educational opportunity flies at us. And yet we choose to duck more often than not. Why? Examining ambiguity, otherwise known as the gray area, forces conversation and contemplation. The gray area gets us closer to the truth. Black and white is more convenient, with words that embed us deeper into the comforts of our echo chambers.

It's like in "Chicago" when Richard Gere sang of giving 'em the old razzle dazzle: "Long as you keep 'em way off balance, how can they spot you've got no talents? How can they hear the truth above the roar?"

Ah, but interest in the truth is going the way of the Crystal Mall: It's there when you need it, but not as popular as it used to be.

Imagine if all the adults in question here decompressed, sipped decaf and put their energies toward meetings between themselves — and then later the Bacon and Ledyard players. They would do such novel things as sit together, talk, exchange ideas and understand each other better. And then — get back, Loretta — they might actually have learned something. They might even take the lessons with them into everyday life.

But then, one side pursuing a hate crime and the other defending themselves from it allows both to play the victim.

See, the truth is better understanding. And nobody really wants that. It's too boring. It doesn't fit agendas.

I get that getting people together to talk is awash in hopeless idealism. Plus, the people who need to hear it most would stay home.

My friend Marci Alborghetti, a freelance writer, was spot on when she wrote recently, "the thing about well-meaning programs purporting to educate us about racism is that the people who need them never take them. And too often, the people who take them afterwards give themselves a quiet, gentle pat on the back for being "woke" and then slip back into their own versions of normal."

Seems to me, though, that only through talking to each other will things improve. One conversation at a time. Slow and steady like the tortoise, who felt like the underdog right until the end of the race.

There will be another rendition of Ledyard v. Colchester soon enough in other towns. Here is their cautionary tale. Handle it better. Bring everyone together to examine and burden of living with ambiguity.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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