I want to believe Ray when says he’ll never hit Janay again. I want to believe he’s a changed man, that he understands why hitting Janay was wrong. I want to believe the cycle of domestic violence can be broken. I want to believe a whole lot of people learned from what happened. But we didn’t.
Janay Rice is the victim, but on the day Ray Rice was cut by his team, then suspended indefinitely by the league, it was mostly Ray whom everyone talked about. Was his punishment fair? Too harsh? How will he make a living? What kind of precedent does this set for the league?
If a few people asked about Janay, their voices couldn’t rise above the shouting. She’s the victim, but where were the pundits asking how she was doing? The man who hit her had just lost his job and been sent home—to her. Was she safe? Did anybody ask? Did anybody care?
Millay could yell. Boy, could he yell. When an employee dared to tell Millay he couldn’t do something, Millay’s cheeks went red and his sonorous voice began to boom. But to reduce Millay to his outbursts was to sell him short. Millay had considerable charm and was known for his enormous generosity among pals and employees. Hours after a tirade, Millay could be found in a bar drinking vodka with the object of his scorn. He believed that the most essential thing two men could do together — other than argue — was to get drunk.
…The g-forces kicked in and the world became indistinct. The raft reached the bottom of the initial drop and Henry’s nozzle-drive system kicked in, launching us uphill five stories, higher than any Master Blaster had lifted a raft before. At the apex, the raft lifted off the slide a few inches. We slammed back into the flume, descended a final hill, and came to a stop in a water-filled runout — not unlike the first water brake Henry built at Camp Landa in the ’60s. The final sensation of Verrückt bolstered Henry’s claim that the slide was erotic. I got that postcoital, now-what-should-I-do? feeling. I unbuckled the straps and limped off through the runout. Then I heard the water tank inside Verrückt depressurize, and it was as if the whole slide had let out a magnificent sigh.
You know how the stories go: I was pulled over one day and the cop drew his gun as he approached my window; I was stopped on the street, handcuffed and made to sit on the sidewalk because the cop said I looked like a suspect; I had four squad cars pull up on me for jaywalking. We trade them like currency. And it almost goes without saying that these stops are de facto violent, because even when the officer doesn’t physically harm you, you can feel that you’ve been robbed of something. The thing to remember is that each of these experiences compounds the last, like interest, so that at a certain point just seeing a police officer becomes nauseating. That feeling is fear.
Besides, neither penalties nor incentives achieve what we’re really after: a system and a culture where X is what people do, day in and day out, even when no one is watching. “You must” rewards mere compliance. Getting to “X is what we do” means establishing X as the norm. And that’s what we want: for skin-to-skin warming, hand washing, and all the other lifesaving practices of childbirth to be, quite simply, the norm.
…In the era of the iPhone, Facebook, and Twitter, we’ve become enamored of ideas that spread as effortlessly as ether. We want frictionless, “turnkey” solutions to the major difficulties of the world—hunger, disease, poverty. We prefer instructional videos to teachers, drones to troops, incentives to institutions. People and institutions can feel messy and anachronistic. They introduce, as the engineers put it, uncontrolled variability.