Ray Rice battered Janay (Palmer) Rice in February of this year. When did America learn this? Sometime after the couple was arrested on February 15, and when the first video of the incident surfaced on February 19. That video showed Mr. Rice dragging an unconscious Ms. (Palmer) Rice out of an elevator that she had presumably walked onto moments earlier.
Some minor league legal maneuvering and some rookie league spin doctoring ensued almost immediately. None of that changes the obvious as it existed in February: Ray Rice Battered Janay Rice in that elevator. We all knew that. The Rice’s weren’t even denying it.
Forget about Roger Goodell for a minute. I don’t look to him for guidance on these things and I encourage the rest of the country to follow my lead on that one. But based on the outcry that came from the viewing of the elevator video released this week, the bulk of the country seems to have the same disease he has. I will call it “purposeful ignorance.” Purposeful ignorance is a common parenting technique when your child swears he or she brushed before bedtime, but you can still see the Oreo cookies in their teeth while you’re tucking them in. Sometimes, it’s just easier to let it go. In this case, it’s the act of pretending that something less violent, less offensive, less unacceptable “might” have happened in the elevator that would make the incident less of a problem. And doing it on purpose.
When I heard about the new elevator video on Monday morning, initially the media was warning the public of the graphic nature of it and those of us that wanted to see it really had to go get it. I didn’t look it up for a few hours because of these warnings. I had an image in my head of what happened months ago, and now I was overcome with curiosity as to the “graphic” nature of what we could now watch on video. I braced myself and watched it. I found that it looked remarkably like what I originally thought it would: domestic violence. Not a surprise anywhere in that three or four minute video. None.
So why the outrage now? I am outraged by what happened, but the video is all that’s new to us, not the crime. I get the public anger regarding the paltry discipline the NFL originally handed out. I also understand the enhancement of the league policy two weeks ago in response to the original mishandling of it. What I don’t get is why otherwise intelligent people are now acting like something new has occurred. It hasn’t.
The evidence of domestic violence is sometimes hard to see. Victims of it don’t always want their pain to be known immediately, sometimes, never. The criminals committing these acts aren’t the quickest confessors. Our culture, on the other hand, has no defensible reason to volunteer to be part of the game. Anyone watching this story from the start knew what happened and for once, the video actually didn’t make it any clearer. It was clear from the start.
In our zeal to make sure Ray Rice is stripped of everything strip-able from him, we have re-victimized his original victim. The two people involved, and the State of New Jersey, had taken a course of action to address the incident. Like it or not, this is not the first domestic violence incident in New Jersey history. I have more faith in the people and the authority involved in this case than the NFL, TMZ and Twitter. And honestly, my only real hope is that this incident makes future incidents fewer, and future victims more empowered instead of less. Without that outcome, we have all failed again.
But since I plan on tweeting my view on the topic in a few minutes as another wise man with no experience in the field, let me leave you with this thought:
“Purposeful ignorance” is a truly careless habit. With regard to domestic violence, it may very well be our worst enemy.