There's a common thread between Ray Rice and the University of Virginia. It's not a thread about either rape or race. It's about paranoia and folly.
Most of you know that a few years ago I had a close family member be diagnosed with paranoia. What was the most harrowing thing about that was watching this brilliant, razor-sharp mind still be brilliant and razor-sharp, but just in the most unproductive directions possible. The perceptive facilities were completely shot: the reasoning facilities were mercilessly intact. The craziest and most destructive things I saw this person do were all gimlet-eyed, cagey, canny, completely rational responses to stimuli that were completely imaginary.
That experience lingers with me. Today, we've not just lost faith in the institutions of government: we are paranoid about our government. And as a result, we are making choices that can only be called rational when seen through the lens of our paranoia.
Consider Ray Rice. A New Jersey prosecutor low-balled his domestic violence charge and enrolled him in a program that would allow him to avoid all criminal charges for beating a woman unconscious in an elevator, dragging her out by her hair, and abandoning her in a hallway. And despite this, who are we mad at? We're outraged at the NFL and we want the NFL Commissioner's head on a platter, for not doing enough to combat domestic violence. We've given the New Jersey prosecutor a free pass on not bringing this hoodlum up on charges, and we're excoriating the NFL Commissioner for something that was never his job in the first place. This is irrational, unreasonable, and frankly flat-out crazy. It's rational only if we agree that we never expected the machinery of justice to work anyway, meaning we saw our only hope for justice to be in the hands of Commissioner Goodell.
Consider the University of Virginia. A lot of the current tumult is over whether the University of Virginia does enough to fight rape on campus. But where in the University of Virginia's charter is there an expectation that UVa will maintain courts and police and public safety servants? We're not talking plagiarism or exam cheating, both of which are offenses well within the University's wheelhouse and at which they have a great deal of experience. We're talking about a major felony on par with kidnapping or attempted murder. The idea that the University of Virginia should somehow be principally responsible for providing justice to its students in case of kidnapping, attempted murder, or rape is just flat-out crazy. UVa isn't equipped for it, they lack the manpower or the resources or the experience. Asking UVa to provide any kind of justice through its student hearing process is flat crazy.
And yet we buy into it anyway.
We shouldn't be screaming at Commissioner Goodell to suspend Ray Rice for a year. We should be screaming at the New Jersey Attorney General to suspend Ray Rice for three-to-five with possible time off for good behavior. We should be screaming for Acting Attorney General JJ Hoffman to hold a press conference in which he commits ritual seppuku as a way to atone for the total failure of his office.
Why aren't we?
We shouldn't be screaming at UVa that it's not putting enough rapists through student hearings. We should instead be burning up Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo's phone lines asking him hard questions about why the Charlottesville police aren't doing a better job protecting UVa students, aren't doing a better job of outreach to victims, aren't doing a better job of collecting evidence, aren't recommending more cases to the district attorney for prosecution.
Why aren't we?
My God. Yes, the system is broken and rarely works well, but do you really think that giving up on it and asking a freaking NFL bureaucrat or a freaking student government body to deliver justice is actually going to work?
That's just crazy.