Entertainment Over Victims: Josh Lueke, the Rapist
Forgiveness is a lot easier when the perpetrator admits and accepts that he/she did something wrong. Redemption is something that only occurs when that person seeks to make up for a past wrong. Josh Lueke, a convicted rapist and professional baseball player, hasn’t done either. Can he be forgiven by his victim and the public if he does not seek it? Is his success after his punishment redemption?
Even those who do apologize don’t avoid public wrath. People continue to call Michael Vick, a dog killer, Riley Cooper, a racist, Donte Stallworth, a murderer, and Kobe Bryant, a rapist. These men made apologetic public statements but are often defined by their crimes. The public chooses to financially support these men and the businesses they work for but also continue to label these men for the crimes they committed. Is it hypocritical? Does it avoid larger discussions on why we value entertainment so much that we choose as consumers to pay these people millions of dollars?
Why do Michael Jackson fans choose to glorify his art? Same goes for Chris Brown, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, R. Kelly, Mike Tyson, etc. Are we as a society choosing to compartmentalize entertainment from our moral disgust and concern for the victims? Jay-Z shot his own brother and probably contributed to the death of a lot of people by being a crack dealer, yet he and his wife are on the cover of every magazine and hang out with our President.
Even NPR is lamenting the death of Rubin Carter when he victimized other people (assault and battery of a middle aged woman). Is the fact he was a victim of the system more important than the victims of his crimes? I still watch Mark Wahlberg movies despite him beating a Vietnamese man unconscious with a wooden spoon and beating another Vietnamese man so savagely that the man went blind. All the while he yelled racial epithets. What he did to those two men is one of my greatest fears of being in public. Should I stop? Probably, but do I ignore a film I enjoyed in the Departed?
Plenty of publicly supported and paid for businesses and institutions employ people who have committed crimes. Do we only support the ones that don’t? Do we carry that vitriol in our hearts and souls and create life long subclass of human beings for committing a crime? Would doing that truly help rape victims come forward? Is that the best way to let rape victims know victimization is not something to be ashamed of and that it’s not something you have to hide? Rape is a very personal issue. It’s one that as a male who has not been sexually assaulted I can’t fully know what it’s like to feel constantly unsafe out of fear of being sexually violated. I do however know victims and they’re often less concerned with the rapist than they are with being taken seriously if they accuse, fear of being ostracized, fear of being seen as damaged, the persistent question of why, or finding ways to blame themselves in one form or another (ex: I didn’t see this coming, I can’t believe I trusted him/her, or I shouldn’t have put myself in a vulnerable position.)
Josh Lueke raped someone. He’s a rapist. His actions horrifically harmed someone’s life. I won’t forget it. While I believe that everyone has the right to call him a rapist, does that help his victim? Does she take solace in constantly publicly reminding him (and her) of the rape? I don’t know if that’s how I would want to start a dialogue with him or people like him if I want them to take ownership of their actions and to understand the harm their actions caused and continue to cause. I also don’t know if taking away his means of income will absolve our society’s guilt for valuing entertainment so much we overlook criminal acts.
We often frame these conversations about how it affects our young people when they see criminals get fame, praise, and financial rewards for being able to provide entertainment. But I think we forget that most young people make bad decisions and we don’t want them to lose hope that they can work to make their lives better after it. They’re often the ones who need the most help and hope. I’m not suggesting we gloss over the seriousness of deciding to commit a crime, but we need everyone to understand there are countless decisions that are to be made afterwards in that person’s life.
Victims clearly need support, hope, and help. But if we as a society want to prevent victimization of all types, we need to help reform those who committed crimes and not allow them to be defined by their crimes. Otherwise, what incentive do they have to not commit those crimes when society has already labeled them and expects them to do it again?