More Than a Slap
Behind the tweets: This week showcased the lack of accountability in our culture and body politic
You might call this The Age Without Consequences. Or, for those of us who remember when bad actors faced consequences for their foul behavior, The Age of Frustration. This started for me on Sunday night with the Oscars, when all I wanted was a little escape from the daily horrors and instead joined the tens of millions smacked in the face (figuratively speaking) by Will Smith when he decided to assault Chris Rock on live television.
This was my first response, minutes after the unexpected event. The responses were varied—those who agreed, those who supported the assault because this husband was standing up for his wife and thought Chris Rock was out of line, those who thought I should mind my own business. As for the last observation, when someone chooses to commit an act of violence on live television, I’d say it becomes more than his business. And his insistence when collecting the Best Actor prize that this was his way of protecting his family? I don’t see it.
News came out on Wednesday that Academy officials asked Smith to leave after his assault, but he refused. I don’t think they should have denied him his award—that prize was earned long before Sunday night—but it remains to be seen what actions the Academy will take in the weeks ahead. In a statement on Wednesday, the Academy said he could face “suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions permitted.” Banning him from next year’s Oscars—or every Academy Awards ceremony—seems to me to be the least they should do, even if Chris Rock chose to not press charges. They need to send a strong message that such behavior is not OK—not only for the millions of kids who may have watched a favorite actor resolve his issues with violence, but for every comedian who now has to wonder whether they’ll be the target of the next angry audience member to pull a Will Smith.
President Biden spent a big chunk of a press conference on Monday answering questions about a last heartfelt line: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” As if that was the most important thing he had to say in his speech in Poland, as if there weren’t more important lines like this: “Be not afraid. A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never erase a people’s love for liberty. Brutality will never grind down their will to be free. Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia—for free people refuse to live in a world of hopelessness and darkness.”
As if what Biden said about Putin holding onto power was going to change the trajectory and cause him to escalate his butchery. We are still waiting for sanctions and other actions to demonstrate that Putin can be deterred, but the uproar among numerous media organizations about an exasperated Biden speaking an obvious truth was overblown and misdirected.
Yes, he’s still roaming free. He’s still mouthing off. He’s still convinced that his interests are more important than anything else, including the war in Ukraine and seeking out the political help of America’s adversary. And it’s reasonable to assume this latest indignity is his effort to distract from the news that seven hours and 37 minutes are missing in the White House phone logs from January 6. Frankly, if Donald Trump evades prosecution for any of his crimes, I’ll go to my grave an unhappy man. Merrick Garland: There’s still time for this to be made right—and to change the trajectory of America’s fate.
Which brings me back to Clarence Thomas.
If there are consequences? She will be prosecuted; he will be removed from the Court. I’m not optimistic. We have good reason to doubt the hallowed principal that no one is above the law. You know the Republicans will stand by Clarence Thomas; they’re not about to put his conservative seat at risk. But what of Chief Justice John Roberts?
Roberts has insisted that he worries about the reputation of the Supreme Court and the trust that the country has in its judicial independence. Will he pressure Thomas to recuse himself in cases involving January 6 and Trump? The failure to do so will prove that we really do live in The Age Without Consequences.
Following four years of violent threats and incitements by a White House occupant, after the deadly and lingering effects of the Capitol attack, faced with 40 percent of Republicans saying political violence can be justified, and at a time when hate crimes are on the rise, no acts of violence—including attacks on the rule of law and democracy itself—can be simply glossed over or excused. To suggest otherwise is to set ourselves up for a coming generation increasingly convinced that violence is the answer to what ails us.
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