Today TMZ published a story about Philadelphia Eagles Defensive End Chris Long labeling John Lennon a bad person. Ostensibly because he physically abused women during his life. This led to a back and forth Twitter exchange between Long and a Lennon fan who insisted things were too complicated to label Lennon a bad guy. To which Chris Long replied “Shut the fuck up”.
We are experiencing a moment in American discourse where (especially among those of us who have opted in to social media) it is becoming easier to establish a baseline for acceptable behavior. We have almost all identified a common language that makes it easier to express ideas without fully understanding them. To know what “social justice” or “white privilege” is or to label yourself a feminist without truly doing the work besides tacking on a few hashtags at the end of your scorching hot tweets.
But rightly or wrongly those of us who consider ourselves on the right side of history have begun demanding better behavior than our predecessors. (I stress this doesn’t apply to anyone who wants to Make America Great Again). We’ve coalesced around a set of common values that doesn’t attempt to transcend race, religion, gender or sexual orientation but instead it attempts to include those considerations in our execution of these ideals. Witness the Parkland shooting survivors reaching out to include the urban youth of Chicago in their crusade against the gun lobby. Those who recognize their privilege and instead of jealously hoarding it like a precious commodity extend it to the marginalized are the manifestation of the slow incremental progress of a shared respect for human rights.
In other words as we evolve socially at a snail’s pace our standards for behavior evolve. The marginalized are no longer voiceless and at this point if you remain ignorant to their pleas for justice that is a willful ignorance that results either from a personal antipathy or an irresponsible apathy.
When Chris Long reached back through the annals of time to remind the worshippers of the vastly overrated Beatles that John Lennon himself (their Patron saint) was a confessed abuser of women I had a brief gloating smirk at the hypocrisy of that Lennon fan who rushed into the fray to defend his hero. Then I stopped myself because I’m a hypocrite. I am a hypocrite because of Notorious B.I.G. I am a hypocrite because of Big Pun. I am a hypocrite because of Sam Cooke. I am a hypocrite because of James Brown, Bobby Brown and Chris Brown. I am a hypocrite because of Rick James. I am a hypocrite because of …(and this one hurts most of all) Nas.
All of these men have been accused of, proven to be, or admitted to physically abusing women. And yet I haven’t seen my behavior towards them change. I haven’t labeled any of them bad guys although a few of them most assuredly are. What standard should I hold them to? I see the hypocrisy within myself because when I hear about new rappers with whom I have no attachment being abusive towards women I instantly and reflexively reject them. You won’t hear me rocking too much with XXXtenacion and I’ve had my fill of Kodak Black. Neither of them will be getting any intentional spin in my rotation. But even that is inconsistent after all Kevin Gates kicked a female fan and although I don’t have a decades deep respect for him I check for his music.
You have to right to do what you want. In life you will most certainly make choices that contradict other choices. The only time this is truly problematic is when you to try to preach purity to others. Chris Long doesn’t want to hear any moral equivocation when it comes to John Lennon. Part of this is admittedly for him that he is no fan of the Beatles. The other part of this is that he’s not trying to convert John Lennon’s fans. You decide for yourself what can turn you off from an artist beyond their music. If abusing women in his youth automatically makes John Lennon a bad guy then I’m confident in his line of work Chris Long has embraced some bad guys as teammates.
I’m pretty sure most of us have some bad guys amongst our family and friends. This is not to excuse any one’s actions or provoke a circular debate. If you tell me Nas is a bad guy and I reply “It’s complicated” feel free to tell me to “Shut the fuck up”.