Domestic Violence and Politics of a Lower Order
Recent events involving NFL players have created quite a stir, causing many to weigh in on the issues domestic violence and child abuse, perhaps more so than necessary. Blackacre joins the fray only because a different perspective and balancing comments are in order.
We know that historically, women have been abused by their spouses, often without recourse or sanction. We realize that even today, women are the disproportionate victims of domestic violence and that the consequences thereof are often deadly. We are appalled by the images which occasioned this discussion, join the chorus in condemning the conduct thereof and recognize that spousal abuse is a significant problem that must be addressed.
Nevertheless, there is something fundamentally wrong here. Our reactions to these incidents reveal far more about us than the participants. And the look is anything but flattering. Our specific concerns are multiple.
The first concerns are the presumption of guilt and the hell-bent rush to judgment. Both male participants were quickly labeled as abusers and just as quickly tried and convicted in the media. Their punishment was swift and severe, including the irreparable damage to their reputations, the loss of endorsements, deactivation from their teams, job termination and banishment from the league.
These sanctions may well be fitting. But what is troubling is how the findings of guilt were arrived at without a full examination of all relevant facts and considerations. What is disturbing is how the subsequent punishment was levied absent a meaningful opportunity to be heard.
There is instead a political correctness, a group think, a feeding frenzy, a mob mentality at play. According to the accepted narrative, these are open and shut cases of domestic violence, for which the men are undeniably, unequivocally guilty and the female/child are without fault.
Most in the media have parroted this narrative. Those who dare to disagree, who go off script, be they pop songstress Rihanna, (whose opening song for Thursday Night Football was pulled from the game), or professional basketball player Paul George (who was forced to apologize after tweeting that Ray Rice should be allowed to play), have been made to pay a heavy price. The same applies to any who are not sufficiently outraged, who fail to impose sufficient penalty, e. g. Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL. The sentiment concerning these reprobates is “off with their heads”.
We are also cognizant of the gender based double standard here. Domestic violence is wrong regardless the gender of the assailant and/or the victim. The woman here has admitted hitting, slapping and spitting on her companion. The video supports these admissions to the point of indicating that it was she who initiated the violence.
Moreover, we cannot help but note the lack of outrage when months earlier, a male was physically attached by a female member of his family. There were no similar cries of foul play when Jay Z was slapped, punched and kicked by his sister-in-law in a public elevator. There were no demands for female accountability; that she be fired and banned from the entertainment and fashion industries.
And no criticism was directed at his wife who witnessed the entire assault, but lifted not one finger to stop it. In fact, many women applauded these ladies while others ridiculed Jay Z for being beat up by a woman. The incident was even parodied on Saturday Night Live. The lesson is clear. The assault of a female by a male is a serious matter. The assault of a male by a female is funny.
Even more disturbing is the fundamental injustice, the lack of compassion and the blatant exploitation of these matters. The male in the spousal abuse incident has been punished four separate and distinct times. He was first punished by the courts. He was punished a second time for the same incident by his team with a two game suspension. It is noteworthy that he cooperated fully with both the court and his employer and that his wife was involved in both procedures.
He was punished a third time by the NFL with the loss of his job and a lifetime ban from the league, not because he re-offended or that the predicate offense was any different or worse than before but because the NFL succumbed to public pressure. And by the saturation coverage of the incident, he is being punished yet a fourth time in a manner that is far worse than the wrong he committed. This alone may be something from which the family never recovers.
There is neither justice nor fairness in punishing a person multiple times for a single offense. And we fail to see how the individual can support his family if he is made unemployable. Nor do we grasp how anyone can move past the unpleasant past if their worst moment is repeatedly broadcast for the whole world to see.
And despite society’s purported concern for victims of domestic violence, the same lack of compassion has been afforded to the female, who has stated in no uncertain terms that the public airing of this dirty laundry has been deeply humiliating and painful to her and her family, that she wishes only to be left alone and that she has no desire to be the poster child of domestic abuse.
Rather than honor her request, we have treated her like a child, an object, a tool to be used to achieve a political objective. Instead of respecting her intelligence we lecture her as to what she should think, how she should feel and what she should do. The lack of compassion here is nothing less than astounding and the shameful truth is that nothing that has occurred since the video was exposed has been done to further the family’s best interest.
There are however many who have profited handsomely from this matter, i.e., the media with their enhance ratings and advertising dollars, the resumes, profiles and speakers fees of the so-called experts who pontificate on the news and talk shows, and the various organizations that have received free media coverage and monetary contributions.
Pivoting to the issue of corporal punishment, we find some of the comments regarding child rearing to be unrealistic and shortsighted. The studies and suppositions cited to prove the evils of corporal punishment are fine in theory, but have no saliency on the mean streets of Chicago or any other urban environment.
Ours is not the world of Mayberry, USA where the most difficult decision a parent faces is how to discipline a child for telling a white lie; where childhood innocence is tested only by the unintentional breaking of a neighbor’s window. Nor are parents necessarily the greatest influence in a child’s life. Children now take their cues from rappers, gangstas and the reality stars of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and “Preachers of LA”.
The sad fact is that our children are in crises and many are out of control. A child who witnesses or participants in a drive by shooting or who has endured the horrors of the street is not likely to be persuaded by a time out. From a public policy perspective, the he last thing we need is to permit children to run the household, an outcome that is assured if all one has to do is call the authorities and complain that “mom or dad beat me”.
More fundamentally, if we don’t raise our children then we leave it to others to do so, specifically the criminal justice system. And it will inflict far greater harm on our children than a mere switch. It will arrest and charge them with a crime, both misdemeanor and felony. It will prosecute and saddle them for life with a criminal conviction. It will sentence them to years of incarceration where they will endure violent rape, physical assault and death by prison. Or it will assassinate them on the spot, by police who choke the life from them or who shoot them fifty times, reload and then let fly another fifty rounds.
In conclusion, domestic violence and child abuse are undoubtedly horrid offenses. But what is more ghastly is the exploitation of a personal tragedy and the sacrifice of others in order to advance a political agenda. This is a level of arrogance and politics which is of the lowest order.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum