My mother raised me to believe there are no bad people just bad actions.
It’s a small world. It’s also a small state and a small island. Between “island mentalities” and generations of only a handful of families making up the majority of us islanders, it’s hard to mind your own business.
Especially when this business is too juicy to pass up.
It seems as though scandals and controversy start as mere speculation or perhaps small whiffs of speculation and suddenly the raging winds of gossip blow through Aquidneck’s inhabitants.
The stories created gain momentum because they are local: your childhood next-door neighbor’s daughter committed suicide; your friend’s youth pastor committed fraud; your old nanny’s sister robbed a convenience store. These desperately distant connections bring the attention to ourselves and earn us our very own fifteen minutes.
What a waste of limited fame.
The recent scandal of the nebulous teacher-student relationship between Patrick Aylward and a seventeen-year-old student at Middletown High School comes to mind.
“Oh, he used to flirt with all the girls when I was at that school.”
“She used to follow him everywhere. She asked for whatever abuse she got.”
“Its been going for years . They were in an reallionship read the paper right lol. They been having sex.”
All of the above are direct quotes from both social networks and voiced personal opinions. These horrifying quips are intentionally galling: they make you wonder how this person has such a confidently in-depth knowledge of the people at hand. They share a common sense that they have known all along that this has been happening or was bound to happen at any moment thus making them someone in the know and someone worthwhile. Their personal validation is banking on this unfortunate situation.
If you ask me, which, I know, no one did, if these allegations are true I am sorry for all parties involved. The actions/crimes allegedly committed should not have been and I hope justice can be brought to those who deserve it. However, at this premature state in the law’s involvement, it is impossible to assign blame or even assume wrongdoing based on unofficial news articles and leapt-to conclusions.
It is so easy to slap a teacher-abuses-and-takes-advantage-of-a-student label on this case and sleep better at night knowing someone listened to your opinion because you may have once seen him at Clement’s or turning onto Oliphant. Never have I been able to say an unkind word about my old gym teacher or even about my fellow attendee at MHS. Though either of them may have been unprofessional or may have misinterpreted a mentor relationship, this does not make them bad people.
If ever I am fondly remembering my days of MHS gym class, I will not think, “And my teacher had an affair with a student;” instead, I will think, “My team never won Survivor because I always got stuck with the kids who were too cool to exert energy. But Mr. Aylward was always understanding anyway.”
The information that the papers and Patch.com has been reporting comes from unproven claims made by the student and people a few steps removed from her. Most has neither been officially proven nor even released by the Middletown or Portsmouth police. In fact, the Middletown police have declined to charge Aylward. He is to be tried a few days from now in Portsmouth. Most articles I have read have usually included the factoid that the age of consent in Rhode Island is 16 – just in case you were wondering.
Being completely unbiased is hard. Delivering just the facts is even harder if the issue is so close to home. Being a gossip is just too easy.
Until anything official is decided by a court of law, I refuse to believe that the two were ever in a motel together or anything that that implies or even entails.
Head-butting allegations or not, Mr. Aylward was always a professional and good mentor to me personally.
There are a myriad of bad actions in this world. Jumping to the worst of them for personal attention might not be among the worst of those actions, but it certainly ranks somewhere close. Gossip does not originate with bad people. Spreading it and losing faith in the good in people results in bad actions.
So, appreciate your mentors and listen to your mother.
Sources: Facebook.com, Instagram