Steller: Courage lacking in Sunnyside hit piece

2013-08-28T00:00:00Z 2013-08-30T12:11:37Z Steller: Courage lacking in Sunnyside hit pieceBy Tim Steller Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

When I wrote Sunday about the Sunnyside Unified School District recall campaigns turning petty, I didn’t know they were going to reach this cowardly low.

A flier circulated in the Sunnyside district says that board member Daniel Hernandez Jr. is not a real man and should be recalled.

Why is Hernandez not a real man? Because he’s gay, the flier says.

“Put a REAL Man on the Sunnyside Board,” the flier says, above a picture of Hernandez standing before a banner that says “Equality Forum.”

In case that wasn’t clear enough, the text goes on to say, “Daniel Hernandez is LGBT.”

Then: “We need someone who will support Sports and cares about our kids.”

The flier is so ham-handed and represents such 20th-century attitudes that I couldn’t help wondering if a supporter of Hernandez made it. But the flier is written in the same font and style of an earlier anonymous flier about Hernandez and state Sen. Linda Lopez, a former Sunnyside board member.

Self-defeating as it is, the new flier’s text raises a question that’s more often implied in our society: What makes a real man?

My answer: Courage — a characteristic not limited to straight men or males at all.

Let’s look at Hernandez: As is well known, on Jan. 8, 2011, he was an intern for then-Rep Gabrielle Giffords, working at her Congress on Your Corner event on the northwest side. When she was shot, Hernandez ran toward her, not away from the gunfire, and put pressure on her gushing head wound, helping to save her life.

He’s received plenty of acclaim for this, and I don’t need to add any more other than to ask the obvious question: He, of all people, is not a real man?

Now let’s bring sports into the discussion. In Sunnyside, a district with real economic and academic problems, sports have often given the area a sense of pride. You might even say it’s reinforced the manhood of some people in the district.

In 2001 and 2003, the Sunnyside High School football team was the 4A state champions, and the wrestling team is even more renowned: They’ve won 15 state titles in the last 16 years.

It was that sense of identity, as well as a powerful person’s job, that school-board member Buck Crouch threatened April 9, when he suggested at a board meeting that Sunnyside school district could do without one of its three athletic directors.

Crouch, a self-described science nerd who’s not too enthusiastic about sports, pointed out that each of the district’s high schools, Desert View and Sunnyside, has its own athletic director, then questioned why there must be a district-level athletic director as well.

At the next board meeting, Crouch apparently was chastised behind closed doors for bringing this up. The agenda described this executive session as a “Discussion or consultation for legal advice with the attorney or attorneys of the school district related to and concerning open meeting law issues, personnel process issues, and issues made by a Board Member on April 9, 2013 concerning the District Athletic Director.”

What a nerd Crouch is. Not much of a man. Right?

Except that he was courageously challenging the status quo when he made that statement.

And, if you look at his background, he spent the years 1967 to 1973 in the U.S. Navy, much of the time aboard a submarine called the USS Narwhal. Crouch helped run the nuclear reactor that powered the Narwhal as it spied on Russian submarine movements beneath the arctic ice.

When people are talking about manhood, they seem usually to be talking about courage — a characteristic ironically missing from the hit piece on Daniel Hernandez.

Contact columnist Tim Steller at tsteller@azstarnet.com or 807-7789. On Twitter: @senyorreporter

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