The show Friday night in Melbourne, Florida, might have seemed destined for disaster for the comedian, enveloped in growing accusations of rape and sexual assault that have derailed his career comeback and crumbled his tour schedule. What he got, though, was an adoring audience that laughed so hard they slapped their knees, shouted love at the stage and rose to their feet as he came and went.
“I think people went in there with him as Bill Cosby from the TV show,” said Travis Weberling, 40, of Melbourne, “not the guy they heard about on the news.”
We’re human beings. We defend ourselves, first last and always. We defend ourselves, physically, and we defend the way we think now.
We defend the way we think about something, the way we’ve always thought about something. We defend the rails on which we run, and we throw everything that threatens the track right off the train.
It’s muscle memory almost: Get it out, get it away.
Here’s the thing, though. IT DOESN’T MATTER.
“Chances are Bill Cosby is a serial rapist. That’s a tragedy. Not for you. Not for Bill Cosby. Not for comedy. Not for America. But for the women he raped.”
The pushback always sounds the same, doesn’t it? What about the feelings of the accused? What about due process? What about the court of public opinion? What about the media? What about the young man’s future? What about the Internet lynch mob? What about the rush to judgment?
Grace, the 16-year-old who was allegedly raped in September, returned to school after being absent for two weeks following the assault. Word had traveled fast, as had a short video of the assault, allegedly shot by Brian.
The day she returned, her mother told me, Grace was immediately approached in a school hallway by another student.
“I hear you love being raped in the ass,” he said to Grace, as she remembers it.
Grace was holding a heavy book bag. She swung it at the boy. Her boyfriend, standing nearby, punched him. All three were suspended.
When Grace’s mother contacted the school to complain about her daughter’s treatment and its alleged cause, she says a school administrator told her, “Maybe you should keep her out of school until this calms down.”
Until this calms down. Which it will do, once she’s out of school. Which it will do, once the accusers go away. Which it will do, once everybody forgets, because if we let everybody forget, then we don’t have to work. We don’t have to change. We don’t have to grow or get better or stronger or draw the circle any bigger or let anybody else in. We can stay the way we are, until this calms down.
It is the most pernicious force in the universe, the strongest, the most difficult to overcome: This need to maintain the status quo. To just hold still, to not cause trouble, to not make anybody take one more step than they’re already taking. As if thinking about something a little harder is some kind of trial.
As if becoming a better person, which is what you fucking do when you side with the powerless against the great, is something you should ever be afraid of.
As if your transformation weighs anything, against the life of someone else.