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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There is no doubt in my mind that there will continue to be a torrent of remarks flying across every kind of media of outrage and condemnation towards Will Smith for his inexcusable conduct of slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars. All of the remarks coming from pundits, celebrities and the public, like “I’m outraged” or “I feel traumatized” including “Take his Oscar away from him” are just beyond me.
We are all entitled to have our opinion about what he did, what both of them did. As shown by Steven, while connecting the dots to the larger point of accountability as eloquently as ever. In as much as I don’t condone Smith’s conduct, part of me understands it. No one has to like what Smith did nor do they have to find Rock’s “Joke” appropriate or funny at all.
It got me to thinking, so I did a little research, and as the parlance goes “Therein lies the rub”. On March 10, 1977, then-43-year-old film director Roman Polanski was arrested and charged in Los Angeles with six offenses against a 13-year-old girl – unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14, and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor. At his arraignment, Polanski pleaded not guilty to all charges but later accepted a plea bargain whose terms included dismissal of the five more serious charges in exchange for a guilty plea to the lesser charge of engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Hm..why would he do that? I wondered to myself. Nudge nudge wink wink.. But the judge would not accept his plea, so Polanski fled the country for Europe.
In the face of the events of 1977, in 2003 he was awarded The Academy Award for Best Director for “The Pianist”, a film that I saw. So, if we want to be outraged, perhaps we ought to be outraged about that..
I was looking through a case of DVDs today for a specific film, and came across a DVD of “Frantic” a Polanski film, it was made in 1988, and it occurred to me, none of the participants in that film had any outrage or problem working on it, nor did those who worked on “The Pianist”. But here we are in 2022 pointing our fingers at Will Smith with “traumatized outraged” condemnation. And for what, poor conduct at a live awards show? Yeah, I know, he hit him..But if we’re going to wave our fingers, we better pick up our hypocrisy along with our coats at the coatcheck..on our way home..
Just as I am growing old and seeking peace and calm in my life, a slap was brought into my living room and ruined my pleasant evening. I too just wanted a break from all the news and an escape from reality just for one night. We cannot escape it any longer. We are stuck in a loop of anger, retaliation, physical violence and an assault on our psyche that tries to make reason of chaos. We have all been assaulted.