[Butterfly Garden, Boston Science Museum, 2014]
This morning I slept as long as I wanted and woke up only when “my eyes popped open on their own.” Whoa, I realized, my just-popped eyes staring at the ceiling, that voice in my head saying “eyes pop open” and playing around with the word pop so it actually *pops,* that voice is Bill Cosby’s as Dr. Cliff Huxtable! And I shuddered.
“Why is it,” I groggily wondered, “that I am able to say, ‘I don’t believe any person is the worst thing he or she has ever done,’ yet am unable to think of Bill Cosby with anything that even comes close to resembling compassion? Or forgiveness?”
Now wide awake, I’m still groggy. Because it’s complicated, isn’t it! Like most white Americans who’d done exactly zero work on racial justice and white privilege, I’d loved “Cliff” and “Clair” and, especially, “Vanessa” as, you know, living, breathing examples of how the good ol’ U.S. of A. was doing just fine. Ha! Like most clueless white people, it had been convenient for me to believe that show signified an actual, large-scale upward mobility; worse, by some twisted, inane logic, I think I actually believed that watching that show was an act of solidarity with my Black brothers and sisters! Jesus!
But now I know; I know more, way more, about the first man of color to star on a TV series, whose career I’d been faithfully following since the mid-sixties. His earliest stand-up routines, “Noah.” “Why Is There Air?” Brilliant stuff. Dr. Cliff Huxtable? I purely loved that man. To have to kick my image of Bill Cosby to the gutter pushes my “Betrayal” button. Big-time. More, it triggers my deepest, collective, archetypal memory of being drugged and raped by a man I trusted. No, what happened to Cosby’s numerous victims never happened to me. But, like all women, I think, I can remember it.
Here’s the thing, though. I’m pretty sure I relish my rage at Bill Cosby because it’s actually pleasurable; it’s schadenfreude. I like poking at that scab. I like being angry at famous people. It’s easy. It’s safe and flabby and doesn’t require me to stretch my compassion and forgiveness muscles.
Here’s the other thing, though: Mentally beating up Bill Cosby (or Donald Trump or Kim Kardashian or . . . ) is a “seed of war.” For sure.