The Dark Side of the Public Reaction to Ray Rice & Adrian Peterson

Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.

Aristotle

I too am bothered by the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson stories. My wife and I completed 40 hours of training as volunteer speakers at the Fargo/Moorhead Rape and Abuse Crisis Center. Our eyes were opened to the pervasiveness and destructiveness of abuse in our society. We did many projects for the Center, and I did many hours of consulting at no cost. I wrote several commentaries on emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Rice and Peterson will pay a dear price for their actions.

I am also bothered by what feels like excessive, misplaced, and poorly expressed anger in some newspaper columnists, readers who comment on articles, and radio talk-show hosts and their callers. They come across as politically correct, self-righteous, harshly judgmental, and self-promoting:  “The more I damn Rice and Peterson, the better person I am.” Their rush to judge and to punish without due process, information, understanding of context, or a sense of proportion scares me. I have thought, “This is what a lynch mob is like.” I’ve been guilty of these things too.

Some feel upset that the team management didn’t instantly punish Peterson as they want him to be punished. People should break away from their paternalistic relationship with organizations and quit looking to owners and executives to meet their need to strike out.

These folks and the good people who remain silent might channel some of their anger in more constructive ways: People who condemn Peterson and the Viking’s management should live true to their own values, put their anger to constructive use, and do what they can to model their convictions: don’t go, watch, or listen to Viking games. Don’t buy team merchandise. Columnists might illuminate abuse and educate readers. Talk-show hosts could turn the spotlight on the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse that surrounds us just below the surface of our awareness.

All should get angry at the vast abuse that permeates our society, not just the celebrity cases.

And everyone should speak up when they witness abuse in the family, neighborhood, and workplace.

3 thoughts on “The Dark Side of the Public Reaction to Ray Rice & Adrian Peterson

  1. Hi Tom –
    As I walked into work yesterday at the mental health clinic, I witnessed a woman with a baby and a toddler in tow exiting a car to go into the health department clinic next door. I was about 100′ from them in the mutual parking lot. (The woman appeared to be a little too old to be the children’s mother.) She was screaming at the toddler to “get moving” while she struggled with the baby and a stroller. I watched for several minutes to see if she might hit the child. She continued to shout aggressively at the child & then entered the building. I felt helpless to do anything – because of the distance I would need to cover to intervene; because she was black and I am white & we live in the South; because I was unsure if intervention was appropriate in this situation. I have worked with abused children for years (and, as you can imagine, their abused mothers) for years. And yet, I hesitated even though I am concerned for this child’s future welfare. I am glad you wrote about the recent NFL events. I have also wondered about responses. I have even wondered if being “banned for life” from the game is an appropriate response. Many men abuse and are even arrested for CDV but usually do not lose their jobs, which would inadvertently also punish the victims. I would rather see these men be suspended from play for a year, receive intensive counseling, deal with criminal prosecution and then come back into the public view so we can see how they have or have not changed. Something about them falling away into obscurity bothers me. I want a very intense light to shine on these cases so our society continues to focus on “what happens after” the abuse.
    Thanks for sharing and letting me share.

  2. Thanks for the excellent insights. The Star Tribune’s Brandon Stahl recently began the conversation with his outstanding yet heartbreaking articles related to the death of little Eric Dean. The results of his efforts are major action in the house and senate to change the laws on how Child Protection reacts to reports of abuse. I agree with Kathy that these celebrity cases can keep the issues in the forefront so changes will take place. Bravo to both of you!

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