By now, you’re probably team Rock or team Smith or team I-just-want-it-to-go-away, believing that the “Slap heard round the world” should be blamed on either a comic going too far or an actor in need of some serious anger management.
I, of course, turned the episode into classroom lessons about TMI (Too much information), accepting violence, restorative justice and the ever-increasing problem I like to call TWP (Totally Whack Priorities).
Let’s start with the last one as it provides the canvas on which this surrealist painting was created. If you follow world events, as all of us should, you know that things are more than a little off in the world. COVID, War, Climate Change, nuclear threats, you know the list. And how are we solving these problems? Well, we’re not.
The other day I counted 23 Amazon vans as I was driving home from Petaluma. That’s 23 vans delivering overpackaged goods to your door for a company that pays no taxes and uses two gagillion gallons of fossil fuels to do so. Wouldn’t it be smarter, as we watch the Antarctic ice shelves cave in 70 degree temperatures, to say it’s time to pivot and tell companies who are responsible to STOP. Like today, or better yet convert all those vans to electric and set up the world’s biggest solar farm somewhere around Firebaugh? How about helping solve the Earth’s problems before you go to Mars Jeff Bezos.
But we don’t do that because the leadership it would require doesn’t exist. Sure, we say the right things but when gas hits $6.00 a gallon and we can no longer pay our bills, we throw out plans and goals and start blaming. And a leader telling you that things will be tough for a while before they get better will not be a leader for long in this political environment.
Here’s a little TWP quiz, I bet most people do not know how many innocent civilians have been maimed, raped, and killed in Ukraine but they do know how many boyfriends Jada Pinkett Smith had. Digesting information this way is like eating a steady diet of Cheetos, delicious at first but then you start feeling crappy and eventually die from lack of nutrition.
In class this week some students were whooping it up in the back so I asked what they were looking at because I doubted it was about the assignment on Bernoulli’s principle. One of my quiet, introverted kids brought his phone up to me saying, “You gotta see this.” It was a video of a kid falling out of a ride at an amusement park in Florida and lying dead as blood pooled around his body.
“What goes in your brain matters and if it’s ugly it sticks with us and shapes how we see the world. Now stop focusing on excrement and tell me how a plane flies!” I responded.
When I first heard that Will Smith had slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars, I was sad because I like Will Smith, we have the same ADD brain, and now that he had assaulted someone on live TV I assumed he would be arrested or cancelled or both. Plus, he delivered a line which I hadn’t heard since Sean, the 6’3” Samoan from my classroom at Balboa High School once said to me, “Keep my name out cho mouf.” A line which was as memorable as the essay he turned in titled, “Tigga is my nigga.” Anyway, I was sad that Will was going to be arrested or banned or whatever happens when people break laws. But instead, he won best actor, delivered an emotional speech and got Jiggy all night in celebration.
Again, what does this lesson teach? Well, if you are powerful and popular you can get away with stuff, sometimes even assault. Second, that the best way to deal with a traumatic event is to ignore it especially if it increases Oscar ratings. And third, that a comedian making fun of someone’s wife deserves to get smacked. Definitely, all bad lessons.
Which brings us to Restorative Justice or what I like to call the right way to solve conflict. I won’t get into the background of Restorative Justice but before it was the new solution to discipline it was used in prisons to bring accountability to prisoners. Basically, it’s accepting responsibility for actions and acting to repair the harm done in a conflict. Results are measured in how the harm is repaired, victims are empowered, the community connects and the offender is not only accountable but hopefully will not repeat the offense.
It works like this: Will Smith accepts that his actions were wrong, realizing he has not only violated Chris Rock but the world with the slap. He sits down with Chris and explains what he was thinking at the time, what he’s thought about since, who has been affected by what was done and what he thinks needs to happen to make things right. Chris then explains what he thought when the slap occurred, what the impact of the incident was and what needs to happen to make things right. Like I said, the right way to solve conflict.
Hopefully, Will knows that the episode was bananas and hopefully Chris isn’t too upset especially now that tickets to his comedy tour are selling out. Also, Will will need to accept whatever punishment the Oscars gives him and tell the world he was wrong because violence is wrong and assault is wrong and love trumps hate and all that.
Will it happen? Maybe, maybe not, our societal toolbox is still mostly filled with hammers so the world still looks like a nail (punish first, talk and process second). But hopefully we are learning so that someday all assault and violence and war will be dealt with in a restorative way.
As for our TWP, try following the message of the new mural outside my art room and Be The Change.