So, Kobe has been charged with sexual assault, and while proclaiming his innocence of that charge, has acknowledged having sex with the 19-year-old ex-cheerleader in question: Bryant charged but declares his innocence.
Several things about this seem noteworthy to me. One of my first reactions was to be impressed by the forthright way Kobe was coming right out and acknowledging the adultery. But then I thought about it some more, and realized that, given the likelihood that Bryant’s DNA was inside the alleged victim, the forthright admission can be viewed simply as Kobe taking his best legal option, focusing the case on the issue of consent, which will be more of a “he said/she said” thing.
Yeah, he used purty words when he said it, gazing sincerely at wife Vanessa while apologizing. Reading the quotes later, I wanted to like him, to sympathize with him in his troubles. But I couldn’t help playing that scene from the movie Quiz Show in my mind; the one where Ralph Fiennes as Charles Van Doren is testifying before Congress, admitting to having been given the answers in advance. At first the congressmen are falling all over each other to praise him for his candor and courage, until one of them says hey, I don’t think we should be praising this guy just for having told the truth about a wrong he committed. Let’s not forget the wrong.
I’ve noticed this same thing lately with supporters of George Bush. There’s a conscious looking-away that happens in the run up to the damning admission, an unwillingness to see, to hear, the discordant data. Like a toddler with his fingers in his ears chanting “nonononononono”, we try to magically ward off the unwanted truth by refusing to acknowledge it.
As the situation deteriorates it takes more and more energy to resist that truth. Then comes the singularity: The repository of our trust openly admits having committed the wrong we we’ve been telling ourselves he couldn’t have. There’s shock, a moment of disbelief, and then the mind gets to work, hastily rebuilding the mental scaffolding. And there’s a powerful desire to make the new scaffolding look as much like the old scaffolding as possible.
So that was me, with Kobe, yesterday. He’s Mr. Clean Cut, Mr. Maturity, I’d been telling myself. There were rumours about his accuser; previous interactions with the sherrif, trying out for American Idol; maybe he flirted with her and she ran with it.
But no, they actually had sex. The most favorable interpretation for a Kobe fan is that he was not the clean-cut family man he’d been presenting himself as. Like lots of other young men his age, he was thinking with his penis, at least sometimes, maybe a lot, living a lie and rationalizing it. And, as Hiro pointed out, apparently so convinced of his own immortality that he was having unprotected sex with random hotties, even in the age of AIDS. I wonder how that part of the conversation with Vanessa went. I suspect it wasn’t quite like the press conference.
Anyway, my Kobe scaffolding has rearranged itself. As you can tell, in the new configuration I’m still skeptical of the rape charge. But there’s a hint less certainty to my inner voice. And there should be. I was wrong before. I believed in the old facade, and found out there was a very different reality behind it. Now there’s a new facade. What secrets does it conceal?
I don’t know. I didn’t know before, but now, to paraphrase Rumsfeld, I know that I don’t know, at least a little more. Let’s see me remember that, now.