Why should I be the only guy in the country without an opinion on Ray Rice KO-ing his fiancé in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino? I shouldn’t.
I’m happy to see the outrage at Ray’s treatment of his wife-to-be but it’s a little like a whole bunch of people waking up and saying, “Did you hear we have a problem in this country with cancer? Really pisses me off.”
Look, I don’t care if Ray Rice ever plays another down of football - he killed me last year in my Fantasy Football league anyway. And I’m okay with his becoming the latest iconic representation for entitled bad guys hurting weaker folk; anytime an epidemic that has existed under our noses for hundreds of years is exposed, I’m for it. But how Ray Rice is punished means dick, if you’ll excuse the expression. It means dick if you won’t excuse the expression. In fact, focusing on it may hurt more than it helps.
Serious righteousness abounds right now. Sports pundits and athletes alike are decrying Rice’s actions from the hill tops. Keith Olbermann called for the resignation or ouster of everyone from the Commissioner of the National Football League down to the guy who washes towels for the Baltimore Ravens – turn them all into Joe Paterno. Keith and I are on the same page ninety-nine percent of the time, and his point is solid – a whole bunch of people knew more than they admitted, earlier than they admitted, so there is plenty of accountability to go around.
But maybe some of that accountability lands on US. Citizens. Voters. See, we get loud and righteous and now we’ve made our stand and we can sit back and wait for the next big thing. And women and children keep getting hurt or killed and a whole bunch of abusers are glad they weren’t the ones to get caught, and most of them tell themselves they aren’t going to act that way any more. They say what Ray Rice said: That’s not who I am as a man.
Only it is.
And because they’re not famous and because CNN doesn’t care if they get caught on camera in an elevator, and because they have become experts at finding women who, like Ray Rice’s new wife, will keep coming back, and because this Ray Rice thing has a shelf life of about ten days, in the long run nothing changes.
But we all feel better because Ray Rice won’t get to play football anymore. We like punishment.
Domestic violence isn’t bad only because women and children are its targets. It’s bad because of the insidious way it keeps itself alive, by showing large numbers in each new generation that physical might trumps all, that a woman is defined largely by her relationship to her man, that love and intensity are the same thing (love hurts), that what goes on inside a relationship is nobody’s business until it’s so ugly the rest of us can’t turn away, which I guess means it gets caught on camera.
On a scale of one-to-ten Ray’s knock-out punch wasn’t a ten. It was a good shot, probably at least a seven, but in my twenty-plus years working with abuse families, I’ve seen worse. We don’t need to pay attention to the sensational incident. We need to pay attention to the epidemic.
And make no mistake, this domestic violence thing is a dance - and don’t get cranked up to accuse me of blaming the victim. If you’re a woman and you get hit by the man you think you love – or any man for that matter - you’re a victim and it’s his fault. It’s the fault of the person leading the assault, and in treatment I NEVER let a man pull the She-Knows-What-Pisses-Me-Off card; but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “He wouldn’t get that mad if he didn’t love me.” So what you do NEXT, my dear victim, is 100 percent up to you. I know a whole bunch of smart, powerful, self-possessed women who are disgusted beyond repair by Ray Rice’s wife. She wasn’t his wife, he knocked her out and now she is his wife.
There may be extenuating circumstances; there usually are. I don’t know what will happen with the Rices and I don’t care. What I do know is that most of the people locked in that dance will dance until they get too old to keep up that kind of intensity, or until somebody gets seriously injured or killed. Some, after an average of seven returns, will break up. What else I know is that children brought up in the fog of violence learn from what they see, and behave in accordance with what they learn, and that’s why this epidemic seems genetic.
So your righteousness is lost on me if it’s focused on Ray Rice. Be righteous with the no-new-taxes crowd who think it isn’t the business of our local, state and federal governments to fund intensive programs that offer real help to families and couples in trouble. Your righteousness means dick if it doesn’t spill over into public policy.