Greg Hardy is a bad man.
For some people, this only seemed to hit home this past week when we, the general public, were confronted with graphic photos of the bruised back of Hardy's abused then-girlfriend, Nicole Holder. This came amidst Jerry Jones referring to Hardy as a "true leader" in interviews this past week as well, which anyone with even an ounce of morality should have concerns with. Bloggers took aim, social media was set ablaze, and now Hardy, the Cowboys organization, and Jerry Jones especially have pariah-status yet again.
Let it be said again, Greg Hardy is a bad man. He is not a "true leader" by any stretch of the imagination. He has clearly done some evil things in his life, including the physical abuse of at least one woman. But I'm not sure our righteous indignation is that righteous at all, because I have noticed a pattern emerging in how we treat domestic violence in the public sphere.
Back in early 2014, we found out that former NFL running back Ray Rice had physically assaulted his then-fiancé, now wife, Janay Palmer, in a casino elevator. Not only that, four days after being arrested, a video emerged via TMZ showing Rice carelessly dragging an unconscious Palmer out of the elevator. Some people were angry, and rightly so. Rice had clearly assaulted Palmer, knocked her out, and proceeded to treat her with as little regard as humanly possible, dragging her and nudging her with his foot as if to say, "Come on, get up, walk it off." So yes, some people were angry, calling for Rice's dismissal from the NFL, or at the very least, a long suspension. Most people, unfortunately, moved on quickly, accepting NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's answer that (I'm paraphrasing), "We'll wait and see the reports before making decisions."
Fast-forward a few months and Roger Goodell ends up slapping Rice with a two-game suspension. Then, another video surfaces, again from TMZ, this time from inside the elevator, allowing for the general public to see Rice full-force, closed-fist punch Palmer square in the face. Immediately, pitchforks are grabbed, Rice's effigy lit, and Goodell's head called-for.
Because look at what he did!
Did you see that punch? Did you see how hard he hit her? Did you see how violent that was?
We had seen what actually led to Palmer being dragged unconscious from a casino elevator, and we were outraged. I guess because before the video, we were confused as to how she ended up unconscious at all. Maybe she fainted. Maybe she slipped and hit her head. Maybe the guy dragging her like an old duffel bag didn't mean for it to happen.
Sure. Because domestic violence is only real when we see. When we witness the visceral brutality with our own eyes. When we cannot create any other narratives in our heads that would allow for the worst to not actually be true. We believe it when we see it.
It's why I was not surprised with what happened this last week, and it's why I think our indignation regarding Greg Hardy is not so righteous after all.
Was anyone really confused as to why Hardy had not played the last 19 regular season games in the NFL? We were all mad at the Cowboys for hiring him in the offseason, though not mad enough to stop watching their games. We were all unsure of how to respond to his starting a couple weeks back, because after all, our defense was in need of a good pass rush (sarcasm intended).
But no, now that we have seen the bruised back of Nicole Holder, we know that Greg Hardy is just as bad as we already knew. We damn him to hell, we re-light Jerry Jones' effigy, and vow to be mad until they play again on Sunday. And then mad again on Monday morning.
While I'm angry that Greg Hardy has a position making millions for a high-profile NFL team, and while I'm angry that Jerry Jones seems to lack any sensibility when describing his team members, and while I'm angry that the Cowboys have given a second chance on a guy that (other than a tweet) does not seem remorseful nor repentant for his actions or general attitude, all three of those issues pale in comparison to my frustration with us, the general public, for needing to see domestic violence before it becomes real.
When will "he abused his girlfriend" be enough?
When will "he dragged his fiancé's unconscious body out of the elevator" satiate our need?
The sad reality is that our's is a desensitized society. We don't take violence seriously until we are able to see the bruised and bloody aftermath for ourselves. You can be mad at Greg Hardy, and Jerry Jones, and the Cowboys, and you would be justified, absolutely.
But until we become a culture that is just as angry at the knowledge of domestic violence as we are at the sight of it... we need to do some more soul-searching.