the (p)rice is wrong

Today, TMZ released the video of Ray Rice’s attack on his then fiancé, now wife, Janay Palmer, rendering her unconscious. The reaction was swift – if, indeed, swift can be an appropriate term given the passage of months since the February altercation.

At the time of the incident, both Mr. Rice and Ms. Palmer were arrested and charged with simple assault. They were released and the charges against Ms. Palmer dropped. Subsequently, Mr. Rice was indicted on aggravated assault charges. Then, rejecting a plea deal, he applied for and was granted entry into an intervention program, thereby avoiding trial. Later, he, a star running back for the National Football League’s Baltimore Ravens, was suspended for the first two regular season games. A public outcry ensued, eventually leading to the NFL’s promulgation of a sterner domestic violence policy.

Then, the video. Within spare hours of its airing, the Ravens voided Mr. Rice’s contract and the NFL suspended him indefinitely.

I do not condemn Mr. Rice as a person, a fellow human being. I have not the power and authority or the honesty and humility to render fair judgment on the state of the health of his soul.

I do denounce his act of brutality and the contextual circumstances – a high-profile, mega-billion dollar professional sport predicated on the enactment for expressed purposes of entertainment of so-called controlled mayhem and our national, global obsession with money and celebrity that encourages the fabrication of indulgent rules and their unequal application depending on the magnitude of the stardom of the offender – that, in combination, for the greater part of a year, seemed to promote the condoning of the unconscionable.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, annually an estimated 1.3 million women, numbering 85% of all domestic violence victims, suffer physical assault by an intimate partner, historically women often are abused by those known to them, and a preponderance of domestic violence cases never are reported to legal authorities.

“If the Ray Rice case,” one news commentator energetically declared, “makes us all more mindful of the problem of domestic violence, then this will have served a purpose.” Though almost too predictably tepid a response, I agree.

Still, as the societal price of ignoring domestic violence is, has been, and remains a cost far too great to bear, I, one who is as influenced as Mr. Rice by our cultural trends toward excess and limited personal accountability, am given to examine my soul to search out, seeking to identify and quell, whatever propensities I have for any form of abusive behavior. If I henceforth daily follow through on my intention, then the Ray Rice case will have served a good and personal purpose.

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6 thoughts on “the (p)rice is wrong

  1. Paul, thank you for addressing this heartwrenchingly serious issue. Much of the talk since the release of the video was “who had seen it or known of its existence and when” but I believe you’ve captured the true essence of the issue…… Accountability….As a society, I believe we need much more of it!! I applaud you especially for looking inward and attempting to quell any propensity for abusive behavior.

    So many “trends” catch on in today’s world, so I’m going to pray that others will do as you have pledged and look inward to examine their souls and actions as well. One personal reflection at a time, focused on eliminating abusive behavior against loved ones and enemies alike could be an excellent start towards all of us living in a kinder, less violent world.

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  2. Thank you, Loretta. I, as I imagine anyone else (perhaps all of us) harbors an internal degree of self-righteousness to the extent that the failings of others secretly grant us permission to congratulate ourselves that “I’ve never done that” or “I wouldn’t think to do that” or “Yes, I’m guilty of that, but I’ve not been caught (or had my private errors made public).” I confess that I have that human “gene”. That said, in my best mind and heart, sorrows revealed, as in this instant case, compel me to look within and not point my finger at another, but rather to probe myself and my self for like attitudes. More truth, for me, no matter how glaring or all-consuming the public sins of others, those who matter most to me and who care most about my behavior are those with whom I live and move and have my being in closest, deepest relationship. Hence, again, it’s best I pay attention to my values and my behavior. Again, I thank you. Let us all pray and work for a less violent world in all of our interactions and on all the avenues of life on which we walk. Amen. Amen.

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  3. Having experienced domestic violence from my father (against my mother, my siblings and myself), I can say that it is long overdue that we–as a society and as families and individuals–examine the many ways such violence is excused, covered up, and condoned. It is also worth asking how it is that we exalt a violent game and then expect the men who play it to turn off their aggression when off the field. Indeed, aggression is admired and rewarded (for men, not so much for women!) in our culture. Violence is the extreme result of unchecked aggression. The mixed messages that this sad story embodies are a microcosm of what we see in society (and within families) at large. I imagine there are more then a few professional athletes (and executives) who see Ray Rice as a “there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I” cautionary tale. However, the grace of God has NOTHING to do with their not being in Mr. Rice’s shoes! Rather, it is the tacit complicity of our society’s acceptance and promotion of violence.

    That being said, I do hope that Mr. Rice, the NFL, and society as a whole are now in a teachable moment, and that somehow, all will find some form of redemption. Redemption is not cheap or easy. While Ray Rice will undoubtedly suffer the greatest loss because of his actions, I wonder how great the commitment of the NFL (and other institutions) is to really do the hard work redemption involves.

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  4. Oh, Caroline, it grieves me truly to know that you, your mother and siblings knew firsthand domestic violence at the hand of your father. I am sorry. Very sorry. So much of what you write about our societal complicity in domestic violence resonates in and to my depths. Indeed, may this current focus on Mr. Rice be a teachable moment for us all AND may this moment not pass (as so many others) with our collective acknowledgement of a wrong, and then, all too quickly, our communal moving on, with all due speed, to return to life as we know it. I suppose it is for this reason – that I duly anticipate we humans will do what we humans oft do, that is, soon seek the solace of our individual ways of living – that I have pledged to examine my heart for seeds and signs (which, confessedly, I KNOW are present) of my own proclivity toward abusive behavior. By God’s grace, may I continue to evolve, to become who I was redeemed to be.

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  5. Thank you for your kind words, Paul. It is hard to pick apart our complicity in abuse. Are we engaging in compassionate responses or in behaviors that might cover up or excuse abusive behaviors? Even the abuser has a story, and it is often sad. Even now, I find reasons for my father’s abusiveness, and have compassion for him. I wonder how I might have dealt with him as an adult, if he had lived to my adulthood. Would I have had the courage and perseverance to be honest with him about the effect of his abuse and to hold him accountable? Part of me is very glad that I never had the chance to put myself to that test, because it would have been very hard to do. And that helps me to better understand why society doesn’t deal courageously or well with these issues. We can only hope that this current lesson survives the typical cycle of media attention, and that we–as individuals and as a society–will move to a new level of awareness, action, and accountability. Incidentally, we can say the same for nearly all the news stories that have occupied our hearts and minds this summer.

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  6. Awareness, action, and accountability. Ah, yes, Caroline, to follow alliterative suit, I say simply, amen! Regarding your last comment, I was and have been thinking the same thing vis a vis Michael Brown’s death and all that has ensued. Will we repeat that damnable cycle of paying attention when an issue or concern reaches an oft explosive flash-point only to retire/relax into our daily patterns of non-engagement or avoidance once the tumult dies down as, inevitably, it always does. As I read and reflect, Caroline, on your self-questioning regarding complicity in abuse and whether you’d have the courage to deal with – confront with honest care – your father about the abuse of your formative years, I think and feel that your raising the very question bespeaks an inner, indeed, innate perseverance that suggests to me that, yes, you might well have done so. Blessings, my dear sister, always. Love

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