Sometimes life gives us little warning signs. Nothing huge, you understand, just little signals dropped in our way to let us know it might be a good idea to stop and consider whether we want to modify our present course of action. The hissing skunk raising its tail. The mother bear rearing up and growling. The guy coming toward you with no pants and an inflatable doll in one hand and an AK-47 in the other. You know, warning signs.
By KELLY LUCK
Special to The Star
By the same token, there are little signals that go with the language as well, like the stony look on peoples faces about a third of the way into that hilarious story of yours, or that particular way your spouse says fine which means you are in vast amounts of trouble. Or any number of little phrases, like I can explain or following up a compliment with for a (fill-in-the-blank), insidious little things that can slip right out of your mouth and land you in a world of hurt.
Take one of the worst offenders: the dreaded Im not, but Three simple words, an automatic early-warning system for incoming awfulness. Usually employed as a pre-emptive non-disclaimer disclaimer, this is roughly translated as Im about to say something really awful about someone or something while simultaneously insisting thats totally not what Im saying at all, and if you interpret it as such then clearly its your own fault. Like at family gatherings, for example, when That One Uncle says something like Im not racist, but and you just know, dont you, that theres no way that sentence is going to end well.
Or say youre Joseph DiBenedetto, a criminal defense attorney invited onto Fox News to comment on the Maryville rape case. Suppose, in the course of discussion, you hear the words Im not saying she deserved to be raped, but escape your lips. Thats your signal to stop. Just stop. Do not pass Go, do not say What did she expect to happen after sneaking out? Do not suggest that probably nothing happened anyway and that its all just the girls way to get out of trouble for going out at night. She didnt get raped but she totally deserved it? Really? Please, Mr. DiBenedetto, if youre going to be awful, at least be consistent.
It was at this point that Fox News host Shepard Smith, who had spent a few minutes in stunned silence, stepped in. What youve done, Joseph, is taken an alleged victim of rape and turned her into a liar and a crime committer, he said. Thats a far jump. Now, when when youre on Fox News, who have invited you over specifically to defend a possible rapist, and even they think youve taken things too far, thats about DEFCON 1 of putting your foot in your mouth.
So that was about 10 days ago. So far theres been no hint of apology or contrition from the New York-based attorney. But then, its hard to expect that there would be. A mindset that comes out with Im not saying this thing Im saying, but is not a mindset that is given to sober reflection and seeing the other persons point of view. At best, you might get a curt Im sorry if you were offended, which has the advantage of sounding like an apology while actually blaming the other person for being upset.
But no doubt life will go on for Mr. DiBenedetto: one of our most cherished freedoms is the right to be able to make an ass of oneself in public, and some folks never miss out on their patriotic duty to do so. In the meantime, a young girl and her family have been chased out of a small town, their lives turned upside down and the girl herself thrust into the international spotlight because once again we are reminded that when sexual assault goes to court it is generally the victim that is really on trial, and if her assailant was popular, or influential, or higher up the socioeconomic ladder, then justice becomes a distant dream, too much to hope for.
And as for Mr. DiBenedetto? Well, no doubt we shall hear from him again. Someone like that clearly has a lot of things to say, and is not shy about saying them. So we shall keep an ear out, waiting for the next time he steps out into the limelight, ready to excuse villainy or cast innuendos on innocents like some weaselly heap of sludge in a suit.
Mind you, Im not saying he is, but
Kelly Luck, of Kansas City, works in IT and is a Midwest Voices columnist.