Something awful happened in our community last month. A high school student scrawled a “racial epithet” on somebody else’s car. Seven times. The county attorney brought charges of a Class II misdemeanor, ($1000 or 6 months) since he felt the racial thing enhanced the charge.

I know how violated I felt when I found a hose sticking out of the license plate of my 67 Buick. I cannot imagine the feeling of coming out of a volleyball match to see that stuff written on my car.

The accused originally pleaded not guilty due to the first amendment, which seems strange since it was someone else’s vehicle they had firsted on. At the trial last week, the judge said graffiti could not occur on a vehicle, only on something like a fence or a building and he dismissed the case. The victim’s mother indicated (outside of court) maybe the judge hadn’t seen train cars…but I can’t help but wonder if someone wrote on the judge’s car, say something along the lines of, “I need to go back to law school” if he would consider that graffiti.

The county attorney has respectfully asked for clarification in the case, so it may not be over.

The accused got off with reading a written apology the school had prescribed. And then of course what appears to be community-wide ostracism.

I don’t know either of the people involved, and frankly I don’t know the judge either, but my babysitter told me the victim is “really nice” and the scribe is “mean, just mean.” The scribe has a very unique first name and will be presumably graduating from high school soon. I can only hope that the schools this individual applies to Google their applicant’s names so they can see what this person is capable of. Or maybe college isn’t an option for the scribe.

A lawyer unconnected with the case has started a college fund for the victim and the whole community seems to be behind this idea. The newspaper has written at least two editorials about how un-cool this whole episode has been. I think most of the community is appalled that our high school students aren’t more enlightened.

And this brings me to a question. What is the proper age to let my kids learn where I got my favorite phrase to holler as I stomp down the hall, “What in the wide, wide world of sports is a-goin’ on around here?” This line comes from “Blazing Saddles,” one of my favorite shows of all time, yet one of the most uncomfortable to watch if racial epithets bother you.

I was originally thinking college. After reading some chat about Blazing Saddles as it celebrated the big 4-0 this month, I am beginning to wonder if we should watch it some afternoon and then talk about it at length. We could discuss parody and racism and stereotypes and using humor to help people see the truth. How uncomfortable the actors felt using that word… Aside from the racial stuff, there is a lot of sexual stuff. (which will mostly go over their heads) We could talk about how we treat other people and the 1960s…are my kids too young? They are now 11, 10, 7 and 6.

I am sure I watched it long before age 11. I don’t think my family talked specifically about the movie, but we had an ongoing dialogue about what was acceptable behavior.

The kids watched Austin Powers at their father’s last summer, which I thought seemed a bit pre-mature for a pre-schooler (in the ex’s defense, the little one rarely makes it through a whole movie) and maybe even for the 6, 9 and 10 year-olds. I am being facetious. They are way too young to watch that. It isn’t like the sexual stuff went over the kids’ heads, since all the stuff is sexual, except that scene where Austin has the little car sideways in the tunnel (my favorite part).

I am leaning toward education and open discourse. What do you think?

And for some trivia…Le Petomane was the name of the governor in Blazing Saddles. I didn’t take French, so I had no idea this name was meant to be funny.