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ARTIZENSHIP BLOG: Involved

Jul. 11, 2018 | Napa County Poet Laureate: Jeremy Benson

Artizenship: Involved

 

A few years ago—well before “Me Too” meant what it now means—an acquaintance posted on Facebook that her friend had made aggressive physical advances toward her, while his girlfriend was in another room. I sleuthed out that I was Facebook-acquaintances with him, too—that day I thought about unfriending him, but I remember thinking, I hardly know either of these people, and, I don’t want to get involved.

The Me Too and Times Up movements, and before them, the Bill Cosby sex scandals and convictions, have brought into tight focus the unfortunate truths of the humans behind our favorite artists and celebrities. And the movements and scandals have re-introduced the important discussions of what we now do with the relationships we have with these creators—both with the people we may have connections to, and certainly with the attachments we have to their created works.

These are not new actions. These are not new discussions. They are simply at the forefront, here, now. And I don’t have anything drastically new to say, I’m sure, if you’ve been digging in to the ethical questions.

I don’t think that 9-year-old Jeremy, pretending to be sick so he can play LEGOs and watch reruns of the Cosby Show, is complicit in the crimes of Bill Cosby, though perhaps 25-year-old Jeremy watching Midnight in Paris by himself on a Sunday to escape the heat and humidity of a Minnesota July is a little more of an ethical gray area—we knew by then, what Woody Allen had been accused of.

These are celebrities, though, people I have no real intimate relationship with, and it’s easy to get swept up in the mob reacting to their actions. The question becomes more difficult when you must decide how to socially punish a member of your own creative community, whom you may have friendships with.

Shortly after my acquaintance posted about her experience, she unfriended me. And I unfriended her harasser. I was wrong to do nothing, even though I hardly knew either of them—and even “unfriending” him now seems like too little too late—but at least it’s something.

My favorite movie is Rebel Without a Cause: when Jim, the main character, is explaining to his parents that he’s going to turn himself in to the police after a fatal game of Chicken, his parents say to him: “I don’t see why you have to be involved.” And Jim says to him, “But I am involved. We are all involved.”

“I don’t want to get involved” is a lie. We are all involved, we are all responsible, and in this together.

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Arts Council Napa Valley 501(c)3 is funded in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

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