This morning, an NPR story on football player Adrian Peterson reported that Peterson had been indicted for "spanking" his child.
All the conversation I'd heard about the incident had made it sound as if Peterson was under intense scrutiny because of another NFL violence scandal. That this was maybe a case of a parent disciplining their child a little too much and a huge deal being made out of it. Based on sound bites from folks like Charles Barkley, it sounded like the whole thing was a referendum on the right of a parent to spank his child.
Just so we're clear: this is not a case about spanking. This isn't a case about discipline; this isn't a case about "cultural differences"; this isn't a case about the kinds of corporal punishments that good parents give to their children all the time.
After Adrian Peterson's four year old son misbehaved, Peterson got a stick off a tree. He removed his son's pants. By his own admission, he hit the child in the back, buttocks, legs, and scrotum at least 15 times (though he says he doesn't know for sure because he did not count). In a statement, Peterson "deeply regrets" the boy's "unintentional" injuries, but didn't express the same regret to the boy's mother: In a text message to the kid's mom, Peterson said, "Got him in the nuts once I noticed... I felt so bad, but I'm all tearing that butt up when needed!" [emphasis mine, obviously]
In addition to the injuries Peterson himself admitted to, doctors also found bruises and abrasions on the boys hands, head, and ankles - and it should be noted that hitting a child with a dirty stick so hard that it breaks the skin creates a serious infection risk. Two doctors in the state of Texas (not exactly bleeding heart central) agreed that these injuries were excessive and consistent with abuse. A Texas grand jury agreed.
Just so we are clear, this isn't about whether Peterson spanked his child or whooped his child or disciplined his child. This isn't about whether parents have the right to spank, whoop, or discipline their children. This isn't a referendum on parenting choices, Peterson's yours, or your parents'. This is about whether it is ever okay to remove a toddler's pants and hit him repeatedly in the back, legs, and scrotum with a stick.