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Wil Wheaton’s post is a good argument that most people are alright, and that it’s the moneygrubbing entertainment execs and a small number of people that are bad, at least when it comes to Chris Brown:

On Sunday, I was personally offended that Chris Brown performed at the Grammys. Violence against anyone is never okay, but the quiet acceptance of violence against women we see all over the world is especially reprehensible to me. Allowing someone who beat his girlfriend so severely she was hospitalized to perform on a national stage — and then framing it as some sort of comeback — didn’t sit well with me. Celebrities — especially pop music celebrities — are role models, even when it’s inconvenient for them, and what they do and how they treat people matters. So I posted a link on Twitter to the police report, just to remind people who they were celebrating.

I’d say about 98% of the repsponses I got were from people who thanked me for speaking up, but the remaining 2% were pretty awful: vulgar, barely-literate, blaming the victim, blinded by celebrity, convinced that it’s something I should just get over and forget about, and — incomprehensibly — self-identified as devout Christians.

While I didn’t take their anger and heartfelt wishes that someone “beat my ass” personally (it genuinely made me sad for them and their families), it has brought into sharp focus something I didn’t even realize I’ve been taking for granted: I’m really lucky that the overwhelming majority of people I interact with — many of whom I will never meet in person — are kind and awesome to me.

I’m honestly shocked by this saga, and I’m actually sort of bitter that America remained interested enough in this guy so that he didn’t just go away. He’s basically been soaking in self-pity ever since beating up his girlfriend, has clearly learned nothing, and now gets to wax triumphant. It really makes me sick to watch, and I’m more philosophical about the public’s sad interest in notoriety than most.

I readily admit that I’m a judger. I don’t like it because it makes it much more difficult to get along with people, to form relationships, and ultimately to live life. Having to negotiate all these preconceptions all the time is frankly exhausting. I feel as though I’ve gotten a bit better at this over the years, but the conservative evangelical upbringing I had has left some strong traces on how I view other people that will be there until I die. Knowing this is helpful because I can try to compensate, but it operates below an intellectual level and it’s sort of instinctual. I always have to remind myself that I don’t know nearly as much as I think I do, and that a lot of the impressions I have are inevitably skewed. I think there’s real wisdom in the “judge not” idea, and as a Christian I do what I can to follow it. At the very least, I’m able to reverse judgments easily.

But while I don’t know exactly what’s in Chris Brown’s heart, I really have no reservation in saying that he is a monster according to everything we know about him, and basically if you like the guy to the extent that you think what he did was no big deal, then you’re a monster too. Nobody is beyond redemption, but if human virtue is distributed along a straight bell curve, which I do basically believe, there always have to be a few people on the extreme left side of that. I don’t profess to know everything inside this man’s soul, but I don’t know everything that was in Hitler’s soul either, or Jefferson Davis’s, or O.J. Simpson’s either. Some people just can’t hide what they are, and I do believe Brown is one such. After a certain point, it’s almost crazy not to just accept the overwhelming reality of the thing, I think. And I really don’t want to hear about how his art somehow makes up for his failings as a person any more than I wanted to hear it about Roman Polanski. The question is whether someone doing awful things drags down their art–it doesn’t–but the reverse formulation is ludicrous. And the argument itself doesn’t work here: at least Polanski managed to make a couple of really distinctive and successful films, instead of cookie-cutter autotuned pop that you could hear from a hundred other comparable people (and better from them too).

  1. Sherry Lynne says:

    You’re right, Chris Brown is a monster. But I’m surprised that someone like you, who clearly thinks a lot about matters of conscience doesn’t realize how offensive statements like, “I think there’s real wisdom in the “judge not” idea, and as a Christian I do what I can to follow it” are to non-Christians -- and how incredibly ironic your article is when put in that context. Do you really think authors of the Christian Bible had an original idea there? As long as we’re talking about ethical bell curves and accepting overwhelming realities, how do you reconcile your beliefs with gems like this from Luke 19:27: “But those mine enemies, which would not that I reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.”

    There is no end to the horrors caused, and still being caused by Christian doctrine. Matthew said it best at the end of that “judge not” thing: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

    • Metavirus says:

      i think the whole “judge not” thing is one of the biggest pieces of horseshit in all of Christianity.

      (a) it’s pretty much the most ignored part of the bible because every christian i’ve ever met (no matter how nice, or mean, or moderate, or ultra-conservative) makes over a billion judgments in front of me every minute. and there’s nothing worse than a bible-thumper who wags his finger at you for being gay, who then goes home and fucks his girlfriend out of wedlock. Live the WORD!

      (b) i think people need to be WAY more judgmental on an aggregate basis. if i hear someone dismiss my concerns about the new a-hole that just moved in next door with “he seems so nice” one more time, i’ll plotz. yes, dear, i’m sure there were all sorts of family friends who adored hitler because he was so nice to his aunt and her tiny pug Mimsie -- but he also killed millions of jews and that trumps taking Mimsie on walks, thank you very fucking much.

      • Lev says:

        Forming impressions of people based on what you see isn’t wrong or bad. But my thing is only that it can never be completely accurate, even of my own self.

        And yes, many if not most Christians are highly judgmental. But so are most people just generally. My longstanding theory is that most of the faults people identify with religion are really just faults in human nature, and that religion often accentuates those as a way of breaking through. Seeing humanity clearly is the only way to even try to overcome it, and there are any number of ways to get there.

        • Metavirus says:

          fair enough as to accuracy in the first point, although for folks who can read people pretty well, it’s accurate enough for government work.

          on the second point, i think there is more nuance to the fact that religion is greater than the sum of its human parts. sure, humans on their own can be brutish, xenophobic, judgmental, paranoid, [etc.] -- but you really need a religion (or a “chauvinist state religion” like nazism) in order to implant in people a reason (e.g., god, hell, afterlife, hundreds of virgins, danger of jews, dangerous “enemies”) to place the “us” above the “them”, which in turn serves to break down the background social/cultural conditioning that keeps people from doing truly despicable things.

          like they say, “Gods don’t kill people. People with gods kill people.”

          • Lev says:

            I actually don’t disagree with what you say, though nationalism in general has similar effects. My read on Christianity is that it’s deeply opposed to this kind of superiority and tribal thinking on paper, but once the whole thing got wrapped up in politics it sunk to that base level. There are still people and groups doing good things there, but on the whole…I don’t know. It’s depressing for sure.

            • Metavirus says:

              The problem with all religions is that some nice ideas a long time ago necessarily get corrupted completely by men who coopt it for their own gain, power and influence. In the words of the immortal bumper sticker: “Jesus, save me from your followers.”

    • Lev says:

      I’m sorry if you feel offended, but that’s not my intention. What I take this to mean is that, basically, what we see from other people is not the full picture, and that you have to keep an open mind as best you can. The idea that human behavior is based more on context than inherent character is old hat in behavioral science terms, and your experiences with one person in one context for short lengths of time are going to lead to flip judgments that are mostly wrong. My take is that the idea is about uncertainty, that you can never know a person, etc. This isn’t really even a “Christian” concept per se, in that there are lots of similar notions floating around that owe nothing to that belief system, but that’s what I think it that concept points to.

      But where this shouldn’t go is that it isn’t something to excuse bad behavior by others, so much as it’s a statement of uncertainty about the sum total of a person’s total worth. My basic point is that, while I can’t judge whether or not he’s a horrible person with ultimate authority, there’s little in the public record that suggests a countervailing opinion to that, and I don’t see any reason to sit around and hope that he’ll “redeem” himself publicly in any way. Admittedly, this isn’t elegantly expressed, but that’s just a casualty of the medium sometimes.

  2. Metavirus says:

    the roman polanski thing in particular made me want to retch every time i heard some celebutard speak up on his behalf.

    what seems to underlie most of it is a sad premise: that entertainers and other people who have “made it” shouldn’t be subject to the same laws and standards that apply to all the rest of us.

    take the polanski thing. what would happen to an everyday joe, who works as a manager at a home depot in Mobile, Alabama, if he were brought up on charges of raping a 13-year-old girl?

    well, if he were able to escape being lynched by the victim’s family or random townies, he would be quickly convicted and locked away for decades -- with nary an opportunity to bail himself out and flee to europe. everyone who ever knew him, including all of his current and former coworkers and most of the people in his family except maybe his mom, would instantly disown any shred of a memory of him and cast him as the most vile human being they’d ever met.

    but, for roman polanski, his money allows him to flee america and live in luxury and comfort. and because he makes lovely movies and all that raping happened so very long ago, swish hollywoodsters can pay the matter the requisite 5 seconds of attention that everything requires and absolve polanski in the name of the producer, the agent and holy director. amen.

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