I am struggling today with a dilemma of sorts. One of our local football stars, Ray Rice, was released from our hometown football team, the Baltimore Ravens. Football is almost a religion here, and Rice was a patron saint of sorts. He is an amazingly talented football player. Over the years, he has been very visible in local charities, and very vocal in opposing bullying in schools.
But today, a video surfaced, showing Ray Rice knocking his fiancee unconscious. It was terrible to see. Heartbreaking. I watched our local hero throw a punch, and then drag his unconscious girlfriend out of an elevator, handling her as if she was a bag of laundry. He showed no concern and no remorse.
I don't know Ray Rice, or his wife. I didn't hear the words exchanged, or observe these two people in better times, or even in the days prior to the altercation. There is nothing personal in this situation. It didn't happen to me. But I felt hurt, angry, disappointed, and wanted to see justice done, as if it really were personal. What I saw was not okay.
So I was happy that the team released him. Serves the bastard right, you know. But then I thought, how does that serve him, or his children, or his wife? Is it justice? or does it just feel good to see something done? I don't want him to enjoy fame and fortune, as if he didn't do something terrible. I don't want kids looking up to him and thinking that knocking someone out is okay, something you can do as long as you are a man on the football field. I want a line that people know it is not okay to cross. I want to root on my team without feeling conflicted about it. When it comes down to it, I want bad things to happen to bad people.
Except, that then I end up here. Ray Rice clearly needs to learn other ways to handle his anger, his strength, his behavior. And his wife will have to struggle with shame and forgiveness and her own anger. Will being fired, and publicly shamed help in this? or make it worse?
What I really want is for Ray Rice to be a better man. And I want his wife to be a better woman. I want them whole and healed and not capable of treating each other this way.
Which leaves me with this. What is the compassionate course when people do the wrong thing? how should we respond individually? collectively? How do we take something ugly and wrong and make it right?