Heyba, Mamby, Who Be Raybbin?

You’re travelling through social media, a dimension of insinuation, of gossip, of unprovable nonsense; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of agendas and biases and a willingness to accept things at face value. At the allegations up ahead, you’ve entered The Prattling Zone.

Some random stand-up comic said something about Bill Cosby and the internet blew up.  Yep, Bill Cosby. The Coz. Fat Albert. The black-youth-need-to-get-off-their-asses man. Shall we add “Serial Rapist” to his resumé? With thirteen (and counting) women coming forward to tell similar sordid tales of roofies, and ‘ludes, and unwanted advances, The Court of Public Opinion™ is having a field day while the Department of Due Process and Innocent Until Proven Guilty™ is struggling under the weight of circumstantial evidence that will never be tried in real court. What is one, who cannot escape the inescapable news feeds, to do except see this for what it is? And what is it? Empty.

My wife thinks I’m victim-shaming or “-blaming” or some other type of “-aming”, but that’s not it at all. I fully realize that slipping a woman a mickey to get into her pants is not the thing to do and to downplay that is inexcusable; I mean, duh! But at what point are we allowed to demand that people take responsibility for their own actions? It’s not like Cosby was accused of slipping something into a drink in every instance, some of the women say that they were handed the pills and told to take them. Why did they? A bad decision is a bad decision, whether you are star-struck or not. And some of these women continued to associate with Cosby after the incidents they describe as “rape”. (If you want a blow-by-blow account of their accusations, this is not the venue for that.)  It’s not that I don’t believe their stories, it’s just that taking into account the entire relationship with some of these women makes their accusations harder to accept… and after more than thirty years. I’m sorry, I just like things to make better sense than what I see here.

For one woman, money was enough, as there was a civil case brought against Cosby which was settled out of court and, also, in which many of these same women were prepared to testify but never got the chance. If they were ready to testify, why didn’t they strike when the iron was hot? The rationale of “no one would have believed me” or “it was harder for women then” may have some merit, but at some point, those wear thin especially in light that Cosby had just settled a case and there was a potential line-up ready to hit him with suits again and again. Yet, only when one woman broke her silence more than thirty years later did they come forth. It didn’t have to be this way and that’s what frustrates me about the way they handled this violation of their persons.  All because some random stand-up comic said something and a video went viral.

Is this a catharsis for them? In most cases, very likely. I can’t say that I even have the mechanism to relate.  But what is the difference when many people today won’t believe them or suspect their motives from when it was “harder for women” at the time of the assaults? The very fact that they waited in silence for so many years hurts their case as much as anything Cosby could say in rebuttal – if he was saying much at all. He’s all lawyered up and this will all come to nothing. Perhaps that is the most aggravating thing of all.

I like justice. I like to know that when someone has been victimized, their offenders will be brought to justice and properly punished. That’s not going to happen here. Whether the stories of the women are true or not will never be tested; the statute of limitations has run out. What does that say about our system of justice? If this crime happened, isn’t it in the interest of society that the facts of this are examined rather than put them to an arbitrary timetable that an offender only has to wait out? Yet the crime of rape can be dismissed after a certain length of time even if the mental scars will survive a lifetime. Where is justice?

I suppose an argument can be made that there is no evidence, so any type of trial will have little more value than the decrees already handed down with impunity from the self-appointed and faceless arbiters of guilt and innocence who, of course, can see these things more clearly from their vantage point on the internet than those folk from the Department of Due Process. But there are more sins to go around than just the ones’ Mr. Cosby committed – allegedly (Gah, I hate that.) What other sins, you may ask? Why, the women who were violated didn’t speak up, so they allowed this predator to continue to do what he was doing and the only means for warning off potential victims was the comedy circuit grapevine. That worked really well, didn’t it? Some, doubtless, felt intimidated to say anything against a celebrity, but some were also thinking of their careers in their silence. Yes, maybe they were raped, but their inaction assured that others were in danger, as well. Courage thirty years after the fact doesn’t look much like courage to me.

I have no particular regard for Cosby; I didn’t watch his show and his comedy is definitely a take-it-or-leave-it proposition for me. The Fat Albert cartoon was pretty unwatchable and the Jell-O commercials were just a dirty joke waiting to happen. I am not defending him, but I am defending the idea that an accusation has to carry the burden of proof and a mob of voices speaking in concert is not proof. Because with every subsequent woman who comes out against Cosby is another who said nothing and did nothing when action would have meant a hell of a lot more. What can possibly happen as a result of all this? I want more than internet noise. I want proof and there is nothing. I want justice for victimized women and there is nothing. I want a justice system that says a crime is a crime and the passage of time does not change that. Short of a miracle or a crisis of conscience, all the angst will amount to little more than yet another empty media event… and some random stand-up comic got his 15 minutes of fame.

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