I awoke today to see this story about Antonio Brown and the rape suit filed against him. I did not spend a lot of time looking into this, because I have things to compose, and I find that there is often little point at an early juncture. But I did look at some things that others have written and posted. I thought it might be useful--maybe helpful--to break down my thinking process. People don't know how to handle these things. What people do want to do is rule--to create a verdict, to be a decision-maker. I would say that that's not a productive way of thinking.
Firstly, I think Antonio Brown is a bad person. A narcissist, as selfish as one might be--or certainly excelling at being selfish; someone who thinks only of himself, a man-child. Having looked at his language skills he appears to be a man-child a number of ways over. Was I pleased when the Patriots signed him? Yes. I think sports is of very little consequence, despite my expertise regarding sports; it is simple entertainment that is readily available, and I largely view it as people enacting something on a TV that is a diversion in which I do not get too caught up as I would with something of significance; there are many degrees of separation for me. I am aware that a lot of these people are violent men. I am also aware that many artists were all kinds of bad things. I have become aware in my life that many people, most, are combos of bad things, with some good sometimes mixed in. But I am still going to live my life, read the book, listen to the record, see who won the game. I might venerate your work--but that is different than venerating you. My feeling is I would not like most players in the NFL. I think true decency is rare. That's a reality of humanity. And I think it is harder and harder to both find and be a good person in our world as we facilitate its devolution. These athletes were told they were gods from an early age, you are talking so much money, and the person who might have been a good person in other situations--because, sadly, I think it's the rare person who is a good person no matter their environment--can so easily falter and turn to refuse here. Money corrupts, often, so does power, so does living a life in which one is all but worshiped for doing something so simple as playing a child's game. I am sure some of the players are good people.
As I wrote in a New York Daily News op-ed last year, I do not automatically believe all women, because I do not automatically believe anyone, pretty much. People lie. Always have, always will. There is more incentive to lie right now in our society. Money, and the faux-morality that has replaced actual morality. We don't want to be good people--we want to look like we are good people. Sans work. Our morality plays out on social media, in clicks, in headlines. Those are the new scales of morality. One more reason the world rots right now. The old scales, the scales we need to dust off, recalibrate and get them ready to go again, were lodged in our hearts, our minds, our consciences. They were not of clicks and Tweets.
This morning I tried to think of the people I automatically believe. I don't want to name names and hurt people's feelings, but the number of people I would automatically believe--and I must qualify this, so hang on a second--is a very low number. This is the caveat: what we report, is often filtered. We don't necessarily try to put our stories through a filter, but they often go through one. That can be a filter of shame. A filter of anger. It can be all kinds of things. I have spent seven and a half years alone, just about. In intense, ceaseless contemplation. While focusing only on creating art and works of entertainment, and getting past people who have elected to band together to suppress my work, following the most extreme form of betrayal--from someone I did believe automatically, always, more than anyone, my wife--I have ever heard of, read of, anything of. I've taught myself things, worked hard at them, retrained aspects of myself, to look at truth, to separate truth from my feelings, to take the broadest view possible and then work inwards. To assume nothing. But to still think shrewdly. To be precise and mathematical in thought, but still with feeling, emotion. The human connection. A lot of things have to work in a tandem dance on the head of that particular pin. You also have to think with imagination, and allowance, something very difficult to do simultaneously.
(I must qualify this qualification. With the above I am talking about everything. If someone says that someone treated them such and such a way, for instance. Let's make this about rape. A crime like that. If my sister told me that had happened to her, I would immediately believe her. Or my mother. Emma. This is in no way to suggest there are not other people I automatically believe when they tell me something happened to them, or this is what they saw--though again, there is a difference, often, between what they believe they saw and what they did see--but anyone who reads these pages has to know by this point that one reason Emma and I are so close--preternaturally so is a phrase I once used--is because we have undiluted honesty between us, and she has the mind that she does--she is the only person I know with the gifts she has--such that she processes reality with minimal filters. Emma may see life closer to what it actually is better than anyone I've known, and that includes adults whose minds I respect a good deal. My friend John, for instance, is about as smart as someone you will ever meet is going to be. I'm assuming you're not going to meet Da Vinci. Though if you're reading this, maybe someday we will meet, and we can be friends, and we'll scrap that reference. John sees well. Exceptionally well. He has a real talent for looking at a complex situation, with a multitude--even hundreds--of factors, and coming up with a probing, salient takeaway or set of takeaways. Now, I don't always agree with them, especially when it comes to my situation--actually, this is all I disagree with him about, for the most part--but his reasons are always sound, he stands up to my counterarguments, too, which are based in twenty years of experience, data, my most focused, regular thoughts. I would say John has less ego and is more secure than anyone who has been in my life, save Emma. With Emma, she does not yet know how brilliant she is. I think she's getting an idea. It takes time. But if John does something wrong, even being who he is, and I point it out--I am not a scold, so for me to say something, things have accumulated--John might respond by saying I have "attacked" him. He'll use that word. He will completely back off of it later, saying I only, politely, but firmly, pointed something that had indeed happened, repeatedly, which was a problem, definitely. But even this person can first opt to qualify such words as an attack. Because he's human, he's caught up in the defensive position. Think about that word, "attack." That's a big statement. Attack. He doesn't usually do this, and there are many reasons why someone like this would be my best friend, just as there are many reasons why someone like Emma would be someone beyond a best friend. As I have said, I do not know how to qualify that relationship because I do not think it can be qualified. What is interesting about Emma, is she would not use the word "attack" like that. She just wouldn't. They are both people who grow, though, albeit in different ways.)
It's taken me a lot of time, living a way that, frankly, I would imagine no one in the world lives right now, and has probably never lived. Life circumstances set me up to live that way, I'd never wish to live that way, I pray to God that this will end soon, but I did make the most of it, insofar as my own development as a human goes.
I was talking to Emma recently, and she described to me how when she was going through a hard time, at this time a year ago, all she wanted to do was to go to bed and never wake up again, and if she was in my position, which she could not even conceive of, she could not see how she could possibly keep going, but that was her, and I was me, and she believed in me, believed in my eventual outcome. This has been a form of brutalization and bigotry that I know someone else could not handle for a week, but I still chose to grow, as an artist, as a person. I don't expect anyone to do even a sliver of what I do because they don't have that in them, and I get that. But people can try so much harder than they often do.
But even the people I respect the most will, when emotion becomes the most intense, put their story through a filter, a lens. They are not trying to do this. They lack the mental discipline (or have not worked to cultivate it), the intense focus and patience to retrain themselves not to do this, they are not going to put in that effort, they are unable to openly, totally examine who they are--it hurts them too much--and they become defensive when they are fronted with having to deal with internal assessment, acceptance, change. That is the worst kind of implication for many people. What they will then do is lash out--that's easier. This can take so many forms. This lashing out will be enabled by lazy rhetoric like, "What, I don't have a right to my opinion?" and will usually involve shaming, especially if the person doing the shaming feels guilty because they have things the other does not, when the other deserves them more based upon qualifications and effort.
Often, if the person shamed is wise and aware, they will know that they know a truth, truths, that make all of the difference, but that they cannot share these truths with the shaming party, because that will be met with anger and/or attacks, when what needs to happen is the hard work of growth, which involves real effort. It is so easy for us to have excuses not to grow. We are too old, for instance. We don't have enough time, for instance. We are never too old, and we always have the time to grow. I think this is why people who do grow, can have relationships end even with people they were close to; they reach that impasse of "what do you do?" They can continue on as token relationships, with a phone call every month, idle chitchat, how's the kids, how's the weather, did you see the big game, but even that is difficult if one party has something over the other they can wield for shame-inducing. All the more so if that wielding doubles as an open mockery of someone else's intense trauma that they had the courage and the strength and the skill to continue to fight through for the right reasons, one's fellow humans, a crucial purpose, a good business decision, whatever it might be. But, that's life. It doesn't mean that we stop loving that person, or the pain of the break departs from us. The feeling that we might have that we are not loved is one we may have to fight to vanquish, because it can be important to know that someone did love us and still does, even if lives are to be separate. Again, that's life. If you are smarter than other people, and wiser--different things, sometimes--and good, life can be very hard in some ways. At the same time, if one meets the right people, life can be better than it can be for people without these gifts, which I will still call gifts. But you have to get to that place, and those people. You might make better art than anyone has ever made. You might experience and feel art in ways that others do not, and you may learn from those moments that God is art and art is God. That can all be very good. If you have your people, if you also got what you deserve to get. In the meanwhile, you remain open and willing to be vulnerable in encountering the former, and you keep striving so that the latter comes to fruition as well.
We say believe all women, but, really, it doesn't mean anything who you believe or do not believe. It's not your place to believe or not believe. By which I mean, it's not your place to incite belief or disbelief. Belief must be proved by the person making the charge, because a society in which that is not the case is a society that will make our current horseshit one look like the richest display of Enlightenment ideals. They are involved in this, the legal system is involved, the police, the FBI, whatever it might be. The person being accused is involved in this. You can read, you can look at information, you can think things. For instance, I see this woman using her name. That tells me something. Then again, so did Christine Blasey Ford. But I think it means something when a person uses their name, or can mean something. I have a major problem with people not using their name. In almost anything. I know that this is Troll Culture, but I would honestly like to know how someone goes around their days, nameless, making their little hateful comments, their innuendoes, and ever looks in a mirror. I don't understand the mechanics of functioning like that, how you even do it, how you live with yourself. Then there is the timing. I question the timing. Antonio Brown, not for the right reasons, is at the apex of his fame and was before these allegations. And this happens just at that precise moment, with alleged crimes from multiple years ago? I can allow that someone finally had the support they needed, and were in a place they had to get to to come forward, and that time is coincidentally now. It's possible. I don't know.
This is simply my thinking process, but I think it would be a good one for more people to adopt. I learned of the allegations. They're pretty specific. (Masturbating and ejaculating on someone's back while they're watching a church service on a tablet, followed some time later by penetrative rape.) Specificity plays a part in belief. Then again, we have all known liars who were super specific. Doing what I do, I know it is hard for people to invent things. You see that there are very few writers in this world who can invent anything. Usually they just borrow from their own prosaic lives, change the names. And these are so-called writers. Creating is hard. For most. Almost all. But I also know that people can get themselves to believe anything. It can be the thing furthest from the truth, furthest from reality, and they can believe it. This belief can be bolstered by people with failings and agendas: friends who want in on the drama, doctors who would have been better off working on their own problems before trying to guide people through theirs, people with piecemeal information, parents with their motivations and the guilt they often tote around. Never underestimate something so simple, so seemingly benign, as a group of roommates. Proximity is a huge influencer. And some people just love the drama of another person's life, and want to play that up, because their lives are empty, they feel like they know only pain, and finding a companion in this is what form of life they have at the moment. I am speaking generally now, just giving examples of how narrative can be colored, and belief as well.
So, again, I don't know. Then I read about money, and money is always a red flag to me. I read about wanting to pay off a house. Again, could just be something else, that might not even be true. I have no reason to believe that it's true at all, actually. The idea of going back to work for someone who raped you is something somewhat dubious to me. While posting photos on social media. I understand that the new way of thinking is "people repress, people do that to cope," and I think I have certainly been open about my own nervous breakdown, my own inabilities to now do basic things, my violent panic attacks, the vomiting, the fact that I now l now lose consciousness at random points of my days, but I am not on board with this "everything must be a giant hug where we are helpless victims" manner of thinking, and I have also created during this time like no one ever has, I have been strong--and stronger than ever--in other ways. Maybe it is like you lose your sight, so your hearing becomes stronger. But I still believe I will get the rest of me back, which would be aided by not being in a hell, would be instantaneous, in fact, were that not the case. But I expect to come back stronger than ever in those parts of me that are now gutted. Or that is my hope, anyway. I have been through trauma the likes of which people could not imagine. I would willingly commit to having a limb sawed off every day with a rusty blade, for it to grow back overnight so it could be sawed off again, and be raped a dozen times a day, rather than endure this trauma, what has happened here. But I know who has done what. I know exactly. I know they are evil people and I will see that every last one of them faces some form of justice, which can mean that their behaviors are drawn into the light for all to see, become common knowledge, which will be justice, and things sometimes will end there, other times they will start there. I am sure there will be variability. I don't post photos of them on Facebook. I know that everyone is different, to a degree, but I do not believe in being a total victim, such that you are responsible for nothing, and nothing can be expected of you. I just don't think that's how humans were made.
So in the end--which is to say, upon first hearing reports--I know nothing, in essence. Then I think about what the Patriots should do. Should they get rid of this person? Is that wrong to do so when they don't know if he is guilty or not? What message does that send to the people out there who are falsely accused, or, worse, to the people who might want to falsely accuse someone? But are they not justified because Antonio Brown is almost certainly a bad human, they have a good thing going, and why would you want someone that everyone can see as a bad person associated with your brand, business, team structure? But the thing is, I don't need to tell you what I think I know, nor do I need to tell you what you should think. Because I don't know. But I do feel like this is a way to approach these things, and much else in life. You don't have to say, at the start of anything, what the final ruling should be.
People do love that, though. Remember the Covington kid and his photo? I saw that photo, and I thought that this looked like a kid who did not know how to comport himself in a situation. He looked awkward to me, like he was caught in a situation he didn't know how to handle, with friends around. I thought he could have been some punk kid who had just done something punkish, which all kids--all kids ever--do, at points or other. I did. I could have seen me, at sixteen, being a jerk to an older person. Once. With friends. Feeling awkward and lashing out. I was a good kid. I was much more prone to mistakes than I am now. But I read the comments of others, including some friends, who saw a little demon here, the face of a burgeoning Nazi. And it wasn't that way, was it?
Conversely, I saw the famous photo of Megan Rapinoe, with her arms outstretched, and that was a photo inclined to shut me down with someone. It looked like a snapshot of pure hubris. That idea of "bask in me, worship me," even standing on tippy-toes to further emphasize that need for, and expectancy of, adoration. I heard her talk, I listened as she put herself before her teammates, again and again, I thought, "You are so selfish, and yet, sad in a way," and retroactively, I thought I was not wrong in my impressions with that photo. I saw someone long hurt, broken, going back many years, attention-starved, versed in creating ways to garner attention for herself. It made me think about her upbringing, her family. I didn't know, I just wondered. Things always go deeper than how they are presented. Far, far, far, deeper. I watched others, including people I like, as they said that if you had a problem with her, you had a problem with women and your own masculinity. I do not, and I don't. Certainly not. Not nearly. But I am secure in that, in part because I do not need to be someone who immediately thinks they know something.