When my father was in the last stages of Alzheimer’s, Bill Cosby came to visit my mother (and me, as it turned out — I was there that day.) It must have been around 2002 because my father was already bedridden. The three of us — Mr.Cosby, my mother, and me — sat in the study of my parents’ house for nearly an hour and he had us laughing so hard our stomachs hurt. A welcome gift given the sober reality of my father’s illness. My mother and I mentioned it often in the following days and weeks, revisiting that hour of laughter and jocularity as the tonic it was.
I’ve not thought of Mr.Cosby’s visit for years…until recently when 14 accusations of rape have made him a news story. We all tend to believe that people are transparent, that nefarious character defects are revealed in clues, signals. Sometimes that’s true. Most of the time it’s not. But in line with that rather naive belief about transparency, I have run his visit back through my mind, dissecting it, searching for moments when I might have felt discomfort or suspicion about the man sitting easily on the couch making us laugh. Other than taking note of his sometimes blustery self-confidence, I saw nothing that indicated a dark side. It would probably make a better story if I had — if I said, There was one moment…
But the real story is, I think, more poignant — that I saw nothing. If I didn’t pick up on anything lascivious, how could women decades younger than me be expected to do so? Men who prey on women are generally quite cunning and convincing; they’ve practiced their dark art and they’re good at it.
We are, of course, supposed to consider someone innocent until proven guilty. But in the case of rape, there is a 10 year statute of limitations, so it’s likely nothing will ever be proved and Bill Cosby can continue to maintain his stony silence. That stony silence, however, reeks of guilt. If an innocent man were accused by one woman of rape, he would, I’m sure, be doing back-to-back interviews denying the charge. He might even sue the woman for defamation of character. 14 women have now told very similar stories about Bill Cosby drugging and raping them, and he says nothing? In the midst of his silence on these charges, he posts a picture of himself on Twitter and asks people to “meme” him. The photo above is just one example of what happened. What arrogance to think he was going to get anything other than a slew of bitter comments.
Apparently, Mr. Cosby doesn’t feel obliged to say anything to the public that made him a famous and very wealthy man. That’s his right, I suppose, although it isn’t a very smart strategy. If he’s thinking this will all just go away eventually, he’s wrong. Rape doesn’t go away. Ever.