How to feel, how to discuss the rash of celebrity and historical figures who have come under scrutiny for past actions of behaving badly in polite or impolite company? And yes, almost all of them are men behaving badly toward women to no one’s surprise. The current #Me Too movement has exposed many of these men as the monsters that they are. No doubt. Placido Domingo is just the latest celebrity subjected to the media spotlight concerning alleged misdeeds. And I must stress alleged at this point. While I applaud the #Me Too movement for holding men accountable for their actions, there still is a presumption of innocence. So, what to do? Do I boycott Placido Domingo concerts/operas? And if I do, am I also boycotting the cast, crew, and the many ancillary venue operation workers who had absolutely nothing to do with the alleged abuse or behavior? Why should these people be punished? They must eat too. So, the only thing that works for me is to compartmentalize. While not an opera fan at all, I do have to acknowledge the exquisite tenor voice of the man on one hand, but also be cognizant of his personal failings on the other. The Cambridge Dictionary defines compartmentalize as: the separation of something into parts and the disallowance of those parts to mix together. This attitude is the only way for me to come to terms with the good and the bad – the only way to prevent cognitive dissonance.
Charlie Rose is another example of someone who behaved badly in his personal life. I revered him as an interviewer and still do. Rose’s easygoing style, intimate knowledge of politics, the arts, history, and the ability to get inside his subjects’ heads enamored him to millions. He interviewed writers, politicians, heads of state, actors, and even Charles Manson. But Rose enjoyed inviting interns to his estate while cavorting in his open bathrobe showing off his junk. From time to time, I watch some of his old interviews. Recently I accessed conversations with Hunter Thompson and diplomat Richard Holbrooke. They were revelatory as all his interviews were. I will miss him on one hand, on the other hand realize he couldn’t remain a television personality.
O.J. Simpson and Bill Cosby exemplify men who had immense talents in their respective fields: athletics and comedy. We also must remember they were the best pitchmen of their generation. But with these two, compartmentalization seems unnecessary. Over the years, their achievements seem less stellar than they once seemed. Other athletes have come and gone and eclipsed Simpson’s records. Cosby’s comedy seems dated now and he never was groundbreaking in the way that Richard Pryor was. Cosby chided Pryor at one point for working blue. At the same time, who knew that Cosby was spiking the drinks of young females that had confided in him? But in an early comedy bit, Cosby joked about the very same thing. So that leaves me easily regarding these men as the despicable human beings that they are. Cosby finds himself in jail at 83 years old nearly blind.
Simpson who had the good luck of having an inept prosecution and jury avoided prison for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole and Ron Goldman. He did land prison time for supposedly trying to “steal” his own memorabilia during an incident in Las Vegas years later. Karma can be a bitch. He is out now touring the golf courses of America presumable still looking for the “real killers”.
Along with the #Me Too movement, we also have the #Tear down the statue’s movement. Once confined to simply pushing for the removal of anything dedicated to the Confederacy, the movement has enlarged to such an extent that any monument memorializing Washington and Jefferson is in their sights. These men were some of the most enlightened and intellectual of their time, but not when it came to race and slavery. And their views of the matter helped perpetuate the practice for another 100 years. But we do have to ask an important question. Would America and the world have been better off without these two flawed individuals? I answer with a resounding no. While they didn’t practice what they preached, they did lay out the framework that Martin Luther King used to his and his fellow African Americans advantage in their struggle for equality. I must compartmentalize.
So, with that being stated, the great MLK poses a problem. King was surveilled for years by Hoover’s FBI. That act was despicable in and of itself. But those tapes confirmed long held rumors about numerous King affairs. That didn’t change my high regard for the man. Although, one could surmise that the information gathered could have been used to derail King’s movement. However, what has caused me consternation is a new assertion that King laughed and watched a pastor friend forcibly rape a parishioner. I fear only more such lurid allegations will hurt and undermine his legacy. But as with Washington and Jefferson, I feel the same way about Martin Luther King. His pluses outweighed his minuses. I must compartmentalize, how about you?