Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ahmed's Explosive Clock

So this teenaged kid in Irving, Texas, builds a clock from scratch* and takes it to school.  He wants to show it off to his teachers.

Instead, he triggers a bomb scare and gets handcuffed while the police try to figure out whether he's a terrorist.

It's become the sensation of the week:  a Muslim boy ends up getting invited to the White House by President Obama because a digital clock he manufactured out of bits and pieces of wire and stuff scared officials at his school.

This story is making big waves because it is so frustrating on so many levels.  On one level, parents demand that schools have zero tolerance when it comes to violence, but when a school reacts to a suspicious object, suddenly administrators are guilty of a litany of faults, from overzealousness to stupidity to racism.

On another level, in an era when teenagers are portrayed as flaunters of entitlements and seem exceptionally hostile to authority, we have a geeky kid bringing an unsolicited contraption into a school facility and then, at least as school officials have suggested, becoming belligerent when questioned by big, bad, enemy adults.

Then there's the racism angle, with the teen, named Ahmed Mohamed, being of Sudanese descent and a practicing Muslim.  He's a skinny, slight, bespeckled boy of 14 years who winds up getting handcuffed, of all things, hours after school officials first learned of his home-made clock.

Police officials claimed handcuffing the small teen was for the safety of their officers.


Meanwhile, when a story like this breaks about a juvenile, don't we need to ask:  WHERE WERE THE PARENTS?  So their kid makes this contraption and wants to take it to school.  Okay, fine.  Hey - do you know how to make an alarm clock out of some wires and a metal briefcase?  Neither do I, so to his credit, Ahmed deserves the right to be proud of his creation.  His desire to show it to his teachers is legitimate.

But still; shouldn't his parents have said, "Hey, cool stuff, son!  We're proud of you!  However, to the untrained eye, it kinda looks a bit sinister.  We think you need to ask your teacher first before you take it to school."

Turns out, Ahmed's technology teacher did warn the teen about making a big deal about his contraption to others in the school.  It was his English teacher who, later in the day, confiscated the clock after it beeped annoyingly during class.  Ahmed's day went downhill fast from there.

Topping things off was none other than the President of the United States, who jumped on the anti-cop bandwagon by Tweeting Ahmed an invitation to visit the White House.  Talk about exploiting both a school kid and a particularly hot social media frenzy!

Such child's play.

Indeed, all of this took place within approximately 48 hours, testifying more to the speed at which social media can foment people into hysteria rather than the ability of rational news consumers to properly digest what otherwise could have merely been a story about an abundance of caution gone awry.

And things did go awry.  For example, the technology teacher should have suggested he protect the homemade clock in his classroom while Ahmed finished out his school day, instead of letting him cart about the contraption.  Another big "fail" hit when the school district dragged its feet before contacting Ahmed's parents.  Isn't that a pretty egregious violation of parental rights?  Even if officials considered Ahmed to be a sinister terrorist intent on blowing up his high school, wouldn't you want to contact his parents immediately?  If for no other reason than to detain them as well as their son, so as to make sure whatever evil plot they'd hatched didn't fully deploy?

For the folks crying unbridled racism in this case, the lack of urgency on the part of school officials to quarantine Ahmed's family may be a fairly substantial alibi.  It seems as though they were mostly being sloppy and prejudiced against Ahmed and his geeky persona, not his Muslim background.

Of all the ways this incident could have been handled differently, all of us second-guessers and armchair quarterbacks still expect a lot of school officials - generally under-paid officials who are apparently expected to act perfectly and appropriately all the time.  Despite the fact that we're living in an increasingly complex and dangerous world.

Some like to think that latitude should be given to parents like Ahmed's, since they're probably naive to the expectations, presumptions, and apprehensions that govern American school protocols these days.  But perhaps this episode should show ethnic minorities like Ahmed's family that they need to respect the burden of proof our society still expects from them when it comes to being beyond suspicion in cases like this.

No, ours is not a perfect society.  But can we simply blame school administrators for over-reacting here?  If they over-reacted, perhaps they did so because Ahmed's parents didn't have enough foresight to see how their son's clock could cause problems before he set off to school Monday morning.

And consumers of social media need to stop taking sides without considering all of the sides to a particular story.

Oddly enough, this story did what Ahmed's clock couldn't:  it blew up.

* Of course, this is all predicated on the presumption that Ahmed is correct, and that he did indeed build this clock on his own.  There's no proof of his claim, is there?  For all we know, somebody else could have built this and gave it to him to take to school and claim as his personal handiwork.  But that's just me being cynical, right?

Update:  A large Muslim advocacy group has warned against blaming the police in this case.  Instead, they blame the culture of fear politicians have incited in our country.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Drama or Duty? Morality's Davis Dilemma

Like many items that swamp mass media today, Kentucky's Kim Davis controversy is not as black and white an issue as many want to think it is.

Davis recently spent a brief period of time in jail for refusing to sign marriage certificates as a county clerk, since the Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriage is now legal in the United States.  Davis professes to believe that same-sex marriage is a violation against God's design for covenantal wedlock, and did not want to appear to be validating such a religious violation by affixing her name to an official marriage license for a same-sex couple.

At first glance, it appears that Davis is merely protecting her religious rights by not wishing to participate in something she believes to be wrong.  Many evangelicals have come out in support of Davis for taking such a stand, and one of the best explanations of the evangelical perspective is here, by famed Baptist minister John Piper.

Of course, many liberals have been howling from the opposite end of the sociopolitical spectrum, claiming that Davis is ironically being immoral by not obeying the laws she was sworn - as an elected official - to uphold.  Perhaps not surprisingly, either, is the liberal fury over Davis being accorded as much press time as she's been, since she's been able to single-handedly prove something gay marriage advocates have long denied:  that gay marriage rights wouldn't interfere with religious rights.

Oops!  Turns out, they can.

Nevertheless, isn't there a bit too much exaggeration from both sides of this conflict?  Liberals, for example, say that Davis should simply quit her job if she can't comply with its demands.  But such a position ignores the fact that gay marriage was not legal when Davis took office.  How fair is it to switch tables after the fact and then demand compliance with a new paradigm?

Conservatives, too, fail to acknowledge that Davis was not elected to personally approve of the marriages she records.  How many marriage certificates she signs for heterosexual couples will end up appearing in a divorce court someplace?  Besides, just because a government official's signature appears on an official document, that is no certification that the government official is ascribing their personal endorsement, support, affirmation, happiness, and moral satisfaction upon the action being certified.

An evangelical building inspector, for example, does not have to personally approve of building plans for a brothel or abortion clinic.  A building permit is simply given when a construction project meets safety and zoning standards - standards that themselves, by the way, may or may not be ethical, adequate, or effective.  The morality of such a bureaucratic document - or even the efficiencies the document allows - is beside the point.  What matters are the laws and public debates that have taken place before the enactment of whatever building permits, zoning rules, and land use plans a community has already enacted.

For a more scholarly explanation of this view, read this by evangelical Baptist university professor Kevin Bauder.

For her part, Davis is responsible before God for the actions she has - or hasn't - taken in this case.  And considering the depth of angst the Supreme Court's legalization of gay marriage has triggered among professing Christ-followers, I'm not going to say that Davis has done the wrong thing.  Besides, she doesn't appear to be trying to get any personal gain out of her actions, except her ability to keep her job.

Frankly, I'm glad she's taking seriously the parameters of her job and the extent of her official responsibilities.  And she's forced out into the open one of the fallacies of the liberal agenda by proving that gay marriage rights can indeed compromise religious rights.  Indeed, Davis' case is but the newest chapter in what promises to be an ever more contentious future for religious rights in the United States.

By the way, if there was anybody left in the religious right who still believes that America's legal system and the Constitution itself are supremely righteous, that bubble should by now be well and truly burst by the de-facto legislation created by the Supreme Court regarding gay marriage.  There is nothing completely righteous or perfect in this life except the One who gives life to begin with.

Meanwhile, to the extent that she's made her point - much to the chagrin of liberals - perhaps Davis' best move now would be to go back to work.  We all now know that she does not approve of the gay marriages her official signature will certify!  However, it's not for her to personally approve of any of the marriages she certifies anyway.

After all, shouldn't the next pair of 18-year-olds who, flush with youthful lust and idealism, stumble into her rural Kentucky office probably be denied a marriage license, too?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Mr. Laurel's Style

During the past nine months, I've met a number of remarkable people.

They're all unique, of course; as people are.  But at the same time, these people I've met tend to be remarkably similar, even though they've been born in different places, have different ages, and have done a variety of different things during their lives.

One similarity these people share is their address:  the Alzheimer care facility where my father has lived for the past nine months.  I've already written about a couple of them, and friends have encouraged me to write more about them.  Yet I've held back, realizing that, the more I get to know these dear folks, they're still human beings of dignity.  To a certain extent, they're entitled to the same privacy we should extend to anybody who isn't aware that their daily actions are being recorded for strangers to learn about later.

When Mom and I drive up to Dad's Alzheimer place, I'm frequently struck by how anonymous a place it is.  From the outside, it could pass for a rambling single-family McMansion.  Within its brick-and-stucco walls, however, are 43 residents representing a vast panoply of life experiences, yet who can barely remember any of them.  There's a whole community within these walls, from nurses and cooks to janitors, and residents who are quite affluent, and residents whose families - like mine - are spending down their life's savings to spare their loved ones the ordeal of state-funded care.

Meanwhile, you could drive down the street, past this facility, and have no idea the significance of what's inside - or who's living inside.

These days, dementia-care facilities like Dad's exist all over the country, yet if you or your family haven't had much exposure to dementia-related diseases, you probably don't understand how remarkable these facilities are.  And they're remarkable because they quietly house, day in and day out, a subsection of our country's population that is profoundly incapable of managing themselves - but who, at one time, could.

I've already introduced you to Shirley, she of red sweater fame.  But she's one of the better-functioning members of this curious community of dementia patients.  Most of these patients, like Shirley, are white Caucasians, but there are several black residents as well.  One of them, Mr. Laurel, has been particularly interesting to get to know.

Mr. Laurel is probably in his late 70's or early 80's, with a head full of dusty-gray hair.  He is extraordinarily tall and enviously thin.  Although his two cloudy eyes tend to aim in different directions, he has a handsome face as well as a disarmingly cavalier disposition.  And like an aristocrat from another generation, he always dresses for dinner!

Oh, boy, how he dresses!

Let's start with his feet, which are long and often quite swollen.  Mr. Laurel rarely wears socks, and his black, puffy ankles, rolling down from under pants that are always far too short, are crusted white from poor circulation.  He also rarely wears the same set of shoes at any one time; almost always, he's got mis-matched shoes on!  Usually they're at least the same color, but one may be a lace-up, while the other is a slip-on.

When he wears his slippers, however, he wears a tan one and a black one.  At least when he's wearing his slippers, though, he also is wearing his silk bathrobe - neatly tucked into his pants.

Yesterday, he was wearing his pants wrong-way around.

And I couldn't count the number of shirts he was wearing.  But they were all tucked into his back-side-to pants, and the collars of his shirts were each carefully folded over each other, like birds' feathers.

Indeed, when he shows up in the dining room, he's usually a sight to behold!

One day, he appeared fairly normal, albeit in a thick wool sportshirt, which was a bit uncharacteristic for Mr. Laurel.  Most mealtimes, Mr. Laurel will sport one of his suit jackets - meticulously turned inside-out.  How he can wear his clothes in ways they were not intended to be worn - yet also look so neat and tidy - baffles me.

At any rate, I commented to him that with his thick sportshirt, he appeared uncharacteristically under-dressed for dinner.  At least, by his own standards.

"I'm not under-dressed," Mr. Laurel happily countered, turning up the cuffs of his thick sportshirt to display a quilted lining.  It was like a padded hunting jacket that guys way up North wear when it's freezing outside.

"See?  This here's black!" he exclaimed proudly, pointing to the shimmering satin quilted lining that, to him, offered an adequate amount of style and panache.

One element of style with which Mr. Laurel is hardly ever without is his ballcap, a black Navy-themed number with colorful embellishments around the Navy logo.  When I first introduced myself to him, he shook my hand with his long, bony fingers, and then immediately removed his cap.

"This here cap has something on it that will tell you everything you need to know about me," Mr. Laurel promised confidently.  "Let me see... where is that?"  And he fumbled with his cap, mumbling quietly as he inspected all of the stitching and graphics covering it.  Finally, he found what he'd been looking for.

"There!" he exclaimed proudly.  "This is all you need to know about me!"  And his bony index finger was jabbing at a patch with one word on it that read, "Retired."

"Retired!" he laughed in his raspy, tired voice.  "I'm retired Navy! That's all you need to know about me! I survived the Yoo-nited States Navy!"

Hey - good enough for me, right?  If he survived a career in the US Navy, which by many accounts is an admirable feat in and of itself, isn't he entitled to wear whatever he wants to dinner?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Spoiler Sex and Churchy Grace

As if to validate my personal disillusionment with America's vast evangelical industrial complex, at least two heavy-hitters within celebrity Christianity are making waves for our religious subculture this week.

The first was R.C. Sproul, Jr., who confessed to having an Ashley Madison account, and has been suspended from Ligonier Ministries for a year as punishment.

The second is Tullian Tchividjian, the adulterous former pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, who on the heels of being defrocked by his denomination, has accepted a new position at another Presbyterian church in Florida.

Granted, he won't be the senior pastor for his new congregation.  Still, the title of Tchividjian's job - "Director of Ministry Development" - reeks of hasty improvisation on the part of his new religious employer.  Apparently, he's got friends in high places who figure Tchividjian's notoriety and good looks can somehow help the church, rather than create an illusion that notoriety and good looks are worth more than snubbing one's own denomination.

After all, isn't "ministry development" a task to be directed by all church leaders?  It would have been more credible for Tchividjian's new employer to simply admit his new job is "Something We're Creating On the Fly So We Can Instantly Elevate the Cool Quotient of Our Staff."

For his part, Sproul insists that while he indeed created an account at Ashley Madison, the recently-hacked "have an affair" website, he never actually met any women from the site, either in cyberspace or in person.  And frankly, considering some of the sexual antics within which other pastors have been caught, simply creating an account at a pro-adultery website seems to pale in comparison.  Yes, it's still wrong, but how many other sins do pastors get away with without even a slap on the wrist?

Besides, who decided that being suspended from working for his father's ministry for one year was just about adequate in terms of punishment?  Wouldn't one month have sufficed?  Or would two years be more appropriate?  Or was one year about the length of time in which Sproul could realistically maintain his standard of living without receiving a steady paycheck?

And how many evangelicals created accounts on Ashley Madison using pseudonyms and fake e-mail accounts?  Perhaps Sproul's Achilles Heel is his honesty; honesty for actually using his real name, while more savvy evangelicals have been far more subtle and discrete?  Is the lesson here not to use your true identity if you're going to surf sites like Ashley Madison?

Oh, the contrasts between Sproul's buttoned-down contriteness and the snowballing audacity of Tchividjian's glittery, sexy saga!  The tall, tanned, and open-collared grandson of Billy Graham says his wife had an affair, then he had an affair after learning of hers, and that on the road to redemption, he can file for divorce and flaunt his denomination's strictures simply because he can.  He's a surfer dude and a cool South Florida hipster.  He's worth all the second chances anybody wants to give him, simply from his charisma, looks, and religious pedigree.

Repentance sure looks a whole lot different in the Florida sunshine when you're a hunky spiritual specimen like Tchividjian.  They must wear extra-dark sunglasses there.

Meanwhile, the America living outside of our vast evangelical industrial complex looks on, bewildered at how we can denounce gay marriage yet fritter away our own leaderships' marriage foibles.  On the one hand, Sproul's punishment could be considered overkill, especially since he never used his account.  Yet on the other hand, Tchividjian gets what amounts to a free pass by another church in his own denomination because he's such an admired celebrity.  And despite the fact that he actually, actively, and admittedly cheated on his wife.

Interestingly enough, both Sproul and Tchividjian preach the supernatural benefits of God's grace.  At least God's grace is perfect, however.  The same cannot be said for the type of grace dispensed by our vast evangelical industrial complex.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

This Faith I Need

You know what I need?

I need a faith that is stronger than America's church culture.

I need a faith that is stronger than money, and what we expect it to do for us.

I need a faith that is stronger than music style, preaching style, and celebrity Christianity.

I need a faith that is stronger than race, ethnicity, culture, and nationality.

I need a faith that is stronger than anecdotes, sermon illustrations, and chit-chat before and after worship services.

I need a faith that abides in the pit of my soul, where it needs to flourish among and conquer everything else that I never tell anybody about.

I need a faith that meets the rawness of my emotions and psyche with truth, not platitudes.

I need a faith that responds to sin with truth, not arrogance.

I need a faith that concedes nothing, confesses boldly, confronts gracefully, nourishes lavishly, and persists consistently.

I need a faith that gives me sustained joy, not bursts of happiness.

I need a faith that provides contentment, not mere resignation to that which seems inevitable.

I need a faith that fosters peace, not trepidation.

I need a faith that does not fear.

I need hope.

I need all the things I've heard preachers say Christ can give to His people, but that our church culture seems to strip away and replace with personalities, programs, and processes.

I need Christ in me.  Not America's culture of church.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sitting Down - an attempt at poetic verse

And now, for something completely different... some attempts at poetry from the opinionated layman.  In this installment, we contemplate one of life's luxuries when living in New York City:

The subway, back when I was a kid.  For everyone today who never knew the subways to be like this,
count your blessings!

"Sitting Down"

Luxuries come in small doses
In New York City.

Down below
Where the scent of urine lingers in fetid air
Where a sliver of concrete is an island
Populated by dozens – even hundreds of people
For only a collection of minutes.
But it can seem much longer than that
When there’s only so much space
On that dirty concrete sliver of an island.

Trains come screeching into and out of the station
Blowing dust and debris and trash
Thin aluminum doors jerk open
And human beings of all sorts pop out.
Some pushed, some stumbling like they were leaning on the door before it opened
Most just rushing, rushing, rushing.
Only when a train is put out of service do people leave a subway car slowly
Reluctantly, wistfully
As if not wanting to leave what a minute before
Had been someplace from which they otherwise would have preferred to escape.
(“Sick passenger” is one of the things you don’t want to hear as a subway passenger
because that means your train is automatically going out of service
and there’s nothing you can do about it.)

So all ashore that’s going ashore
Having bolted from the train
But there’s no pause, no interlude... nope!
Even before the last person exits, others are pushing through the doors, clamoring inside
An intricate weave and bob and dance
As some rush out, and some rush in
Through the same little openings in an aluminum tube.

And let’s not forget the bags
The shopping bags of all sizes from stores posh and plain
The hand-held briefcases with their hard corners
The enormous backpacks with their swinging straps
The diehard travelers with their rollable luggage
Crazy moms with their strollers
Musicians with their trombone and violin cases
The Chinese immigrants with their bags of raw vegetables, meat, and fish
The corporate women with an impressive number of designer leather bags hanging from both shoulders…
Back in the 80’s, punks boarded trains with enormous black boom-boxes perched on their shoulders.
Older women in faded London Fog topcoats boarded trains with a flimsy wire basket on two bent wheels.
Everybody's got something to haul, it seems.

cautions the conductor in a bleak voice that betrays the frequency of the warning
And whether you were able to hear the conductor or not, the doors suddenly spring shut
Whether you’re ready or not
Whether people are nearly sliced in two by the closing doors or not.
After all, the pace of the city can’t stop because you might miss your train
Although some people will give it a try
And push their briefcase between the closing doors
Or their arm, or hand
Sometimes the doors pop right back open as sensors detect the obstruction
Or sometimes they close hard
Or sometimes, to the amusement of those inside the car
They slam open and closed in rapid succession, pounding against the stubborn briefcase (bodily appendages have already been pulled away) like the doors are beating the obstruction into submission.
If they’re quick, the briefcase’s owner can dart onto the train
And everyone can proceed.
And all this within mere seconds.
Life happens fast in New York.

And there – ahhh! – in the middle of the car
But preferably at the end of a row
Or maybe in a corner
There it is
The prize of the subway rider
The throne of the victor, the patient, the weary
The orange square that heralds relief:
An empty seat!
Luxuries come in small doses in New York.
And most subway seats are colored orange.
Which makes orange the subway rider's color of reward.

The rules for the empty seat are at once complex and simple.
If the car is mostly empty, everyone can sit in complete freedom.
If the car is SRO, people may stand out of rare deference to others
Or because theirs is the next stop anyway
Or because they’ve been sitting all day at work
Or because personal space is also a valuable commodity in the dense metropolis.
Obviously infirm people
Wobbling on crutches or with a cane – are oftentimes given a seat
In a magnanimous gesture not wholly forgotten in the City
And obviously pregnant women are given seats too
But that’s about the limit of subway rider generosity.

Its that orange square, however
Gleaming from its plastic frame
That is the prize
People scope the car quickly
Their eyes darting throughout the car even as they dash inside
In an instant, calculations are made
Evaluations of the neighbors of the orange square
Is that guy drunk? Is that woman too obese that she’ll lean on me?  Might that kid mug me?
All up and down the car
And then, in competition with the others who have just entered this microcosm
You make your move, stake your claim,
Or sometimes in exhaustion
Or sometimes defiantly….
And then
You think… 
...What’s that smell...?

Monday, July 20, 2015

What's Still True Behind Cosby Affair

Considering the steady drumbeat of allegations against comedian Bill Cosby, and the release of details Cosby himself once admitted regarding his extramarital affairs, perhaps it's time to re-visit this essay I wrote last year on the topic:

From November, 2014:

I really, really, really like Bill Cosby.

He's genuinely funny, he's G-rated, and he's been a stellar advocate for racial harmony.

Well, at least he's G-rated in public. For years, he's been quietly dogged by accusations of sexual impropriety behind the scenes.  In 2005, his lawyers reached an out-of-court settlement with a Pennsylvania woman over her charges of molestation after the police determined there wasn't enough evidence to officially charge the celebrity.

And as celebrities go, Cosby has been one of the biggest.  After earning millions of dollars during his eponymous hit comedy's run during the 1980's on NBC, he reportedly considered buying the network from its parent company, General Electric.  From his TV shows to his Jell-o commercials to his many public appearances, Cosby personified the prototypical father and husband, since his marriages and family lives - both onscreen and off - seemed so stable and robust.  When a son of his in real life was killed in 1997 during a botched robbery, the country was shocked by the reminder that such indiscriminate tragedy can strike even a beloved patriarch like Cosby.

Unfortunately, it's been the alleged tragedies of a premeditated sort that have suddenly blown up in Cosby's face, as a fifth woman has recently come forward with new claims of Cosby as a sexual predator.  A former supermodel says that Cosby drugged and raped her in a hotel room years ago - all of these incidents happened years ago - which fits a pattern of abuse each of Cosby's other accusers have outlined.

Making matters worse for Cosby is that one of his lawyers scoffed at the most recent accuser, contemptuously suggesting that hers represents a desperate grasp for notoriety and relevance as her career fades.

Nor does it help that Cosby's response to all of this current furor has been silence.  Indeed, Cosby's response has been brazen in its timidity.  He's either personally said he doesn't talk about such allegations, or he lets his lawyers say it for him.  And on the one hand, it's an understandable response:  if they're not true, why dignify such sordid accusations with an official response?  On the other hand, if they are true, appearing to take the high road by not talking about them can look equally meritorious to the public.

And speaking of Cosby's public, it currently seems as if most Americans want to give him the benefit of the doubt, and honor our memory of him with deference to his steady insistence that the allegations completely lack merit.

Yet, what if the allegations have merit?

In a way, this is exactly the type of "he said - she said" dilemma that makes many allegations of sexual misconduct extremely difficult to investigate, let alone prosecute.  Compounding this dilemma is the fact that Cosby has been a Hollywood star since the 1960's, and a black one at that, which makes him quite rare when it comes to America's celebrity universe.  One of his accusers has publicly stated that Cosby is an "untouchable," and that's why she never went public earlier with her story.  It's only now, as she sees what may be her final chance at wresting an apology from him, that she's come forward to join the growing chorus against Cosby.

It's hard to see what else these woman could hope to gain from their allegations, except perhaps an apology.  Whatever statutes of limitations there may have been have likely expired, so it's not like Cosby faces any jail time.  He's already reached some sort of financial settlement with one of his accusers, so maybe these other women see this as a chance to get some money out of him before the 77-year-old edges ever closer to death, which would end their money hopes.  But Cosby's passing would also end their hopes of getting a personal apology from him, if indeed, he really did to them what they say he did.

As Cosby and his representatives remain mum on these charges, Hollywood's public relations machine has decided that he's no longer worth the liability.  Upcoming talk show appearances have been cancelled, a new television project with NBC has been scrapped, and his signature series, the Cosby Show, has been pulled indefinitely from cable TV re-runs.  Not because Cosby is guilty, but because the entertainment industry loathes associations with damaged brands.  And Cosby has suddenly become a damaged brand.

Not just from the accusations against him, but his own attempts at ignoring those accusations.

Die-hard Cosby supporters would counter, "well, what else is he supposed to say, other than that they're not true?"

And you know what?  It's hard to come up with anything else to say, isn't it?  We're back to the "he said - she said" dilemma, in which nobody really wins.  Cosby can continue to deny, and lose a few media projects that would have paid him a fraction of what he used to command.  But whether it's fair or not, the aura of suspicion gets thicker with each woman who tells her story.  And the women, for all of the public's sympathies for victims, are treated with suspicion as well, since we don't really know if they're inadvertently making Cosby the actual victim.

Besides, if her story is accurate, what should any female supermodel be expecting - rightly or wrongly - when she's alone in a hotel room with a man?  If something did happen, might she simply be harboring regrets?

Meanwhile, the deeper danger in all of this can be seen in how it affects other victims of sexual abuse.  If an abuse victim doesn't have irrefutable, obvious evidence to back up their claim, the skepticism they may face can make coming forward with an allegation frightfully foreboding.  If the abuser happens to be a highly-regarded or powerful person with far more resources at their disposal - whether in the form of public admiration, money, or influence within the industry employing them, the odds of a victim achieving credibility become even longer.

Whomever is lying when it comes to the Cosby allegations is not only working against their own self, but they're reinforcing the public's weariness in trying to parse the truth out of similar cases, whether they involve international celebrities or not.

The most we can hope for is that the truth comes out sooner rather than later, not just for the benefit of whomever is the victim here, but for all future legitimate victims of sexual abuse.

And perhaps the innocent victims of false accusers, too.