Columns 2014

Bill Cosby… and, oh yeah, Happy Thanksgiving

Writing a column about Bill Cosby as a probable serial rapist is not something I ever thought I’d be doing. I mean, we’re talking about Dr. Cliff Huxtable, the man who probably made President Barack Obama possible by making African American men less scary and threatening to the nation at large. He was the first black man to star in a network TV show (I Spy) and the first one to show an educated black family with a professional mom and dad and a home life to which we could all relate. In fact, he showed it in such a normal light that most of us wished our family was like his. We wished our dad would talk to us like he talked to his kids. We wished our spouses would embrace us the way he embraced Clair. Now we’re finding out that behind that goofy grin of Dr. Jekyll lurked the frightening smile of a Mr. Hyde.

In our heads Bill Cosby was never really Bill Cosby after his Cosby Show became a Thursday night staple in the 80s. From then on we looked at him and always saw Cliff Huxtable, the lovable, wise patriarch who liked shoot ‘em up Westerns from the 50s and sandwiches from the White House Sub Shop. Through all the succeeding decades, despite the whispers within the industry itself that would never quite die, the reality of who he might be was quashed by the quiet threat that his power held. He could make or break your career. He could make or break your show. He could see that you never got an audition again if he wanted. So no matter what he did, best to keep quiet because you were never going to be believed next to Dr. Cliff Huxtable.

You don’t have to be a genius to see the parallels between the Cosby story and our own National Guard scandal. In both cases powerful men kept the truth from emerging. Or, at a minimum, powerful men kept the allegations from ever getting a thorough hearing with some level of reasonable results. So the victims became twice victimized and the perpetrators, almost always men, kept their power and reputations intact.

Thanks to a few brave victims who would not shut up and go away, both Bill Cosby and the Alaska National Guard will now face a day of reckoning and, if we are lucky, the system that allowed the abuse to flourish below the radar will be fixed so that it can’t happen again. It’s just that I’m not holding my breath for that to occur. Perhaps with the National Guard we have a chance of a systemic change that will make the whole process fairer and less fearsome to those who have been assaulted. But in the case of Cosby, I’d have to guess that there never will be any sense of justice for his victims. He’s already paid off multiple women to make the whispering go away. But even he apparently did not have enough money to pay off all the women he’d assaulted. All his money and power couldn’t keep the whispers from becoming loud statements spoken publicly. Sadly, it seems there are always other powerful men who will try to suppress the ugliness of their actions towards women, believing as Cosby apparently did that they are invincible.

The Cosby story comes to light as Alaska once again deals with the fact that we are the most dangerous state for women in the nation. Come here and you are apt to be murdered more, raped more, physically and verbally abused more than anywhere else. Makes it hard to think of something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.

As we head into that holiday and express thanks for the things in our life that are good, take a moment of silent thought and prayer for those to whom not much feels good at all. These are the men and women still living with violent physical and verbal abuse who are too intimidated to know how to change their circumstances. Look around your dinner table at your friends and family and thank whoever you believe in for giving you a safe place to be, a safe home to host a dinner, a safe bed to lie in at night. These are the blessings so many of us take for granted without realizing just how many in our society are without them.