My phone buzzed in my hand on the way to my audition this afternoon. I turned it over to find Google alerting me to the fact that Bill Cosby—the actor whose pudding pops I begged my mother to buy as a child, Dr. Huxtable who made me aspire to having a brownstone and family full of high-achievers in New York City, the comedian whose standup sets I studied before I eventually got on stage myself—was on his way to prison for three to ten years. America’s beloved television dad was finally “brought to justice” for the repeated, pathological, pre-meditated, criminal drugging and sexual assault of multiple women across multiple decades.
Shocking. Horrific. Wretched.
Another maniacal fruit forming on the poison tree of sexual violence. A tree at which we are finally looking, acknowledging, about which we are finally talking. Though reluctant, society and the media are finally allowing space for survivors to step forward, to find and use their voice, to pursue their perpetrator using the judicial process; to meet open ears, caring hearts, crusading souls. These things are so important, integral for our country to do during this incredible time of awakening, revelation, reckoning that we are experiencing.
And, yet, it is also just the surface of the issue; only that which we can easily see; the trunk, the bark, the branches, the fruit that looks like something sweet—head of a hollywood production company, head of a major network, soldier, priest, actor, coach—but are in actuality dangerous, lethal. There is still a world of pathology, psychology, philosophy beneath this tree, under ground, among the roots of its history.
Pruning the branches of this noxious tree is a huge step for our culture. We just cannot allow ourselves to forget that expansive trees have even bigger roots.
And if we are finally acknowledging this wretched tree in the midst of the glorious garden that we have created with our country, let us not miss the opportunity we have to do something meaningful and lasting. Let us not willingly ignore the chance we have to yank it up by the roots, consciously fill the hole with understanding, healing, where the corrupted tree once sat, and till fresh, new, safe soil. Let us teach our young children that they are invaluable, that their bodies are their own, that they have a voice, deserve a voice, can use that voice. Lets us teach them that other’s bodies are their own, and to touch them requires a simple conversation and agreement. Period. Let us teach them through example how to treat one another, revere one another, adore one another. Let us take that gaping hole—in the absence of that abusive, harassing, deadly tree—and plant seeds of love, respect, hope and humanness among the humanity of our nation’s garden.
We have a growing bouquet from our civilization’s gnarled predatory pomiculture—Cosby being the latest. What is it in how we view power, how we view human rights within our families, our relationships, our schools, teams, organizations that has allowed wounded, damaged criminals like Cosby to operate, seduce our culture enough to thrive for as long as they have? It’s time we follow the branches down the trunk to the fundamental beliefs at the root, how we as a culture water those intrinsic beliefs, and what we can do to rip them up, get dirty in really having the difficult discourse, so that we can change them for the better, and so that none of us have to be threatened or irrevocably harmed by its presence ever again.
Polo REO Tate was born in Lansing, Michigan, where her family has deep ties to the community. Her Great Great Grandfather was Ransom Eli Olds (R.E. Olds), a pioneer and prolific inventor most notably responsible for inventing the first internal combustion automobile—the Oldsmobile. Growing up, [...]