The Cosby Conundrum

What happens when America’s Favorite Dad has to deal with allegations of drugging and sexually assaulting numerous women on several different occasions?

Tune in to Must-See TV this week to find out!

bill cosbyOkay, that may be the most inappropriate introduction to any post I’ve ever written on this blog, but, good grief, how else can a person keep from shedding tears over the current Bill Cosby situation except with humor, ill-advised as it may be? The man who helped sell Coca-Cola and Jell-O Pudding Pops may have been carrying around briefcases full of drugs and forcing himself on various females over the span of several years. This is the stuff nightmares are made of.

Even though nothing has been formally proven against Mr. Cosby, the number of women speaking out with stories of alleged abuse at his hands seems to be growing daily. Assuming any of these allegations are true, he will have some explaining to do in the future. He will be (and already has been, to a certain extent) branded a bad man.

My problem at the moment, however, is not that I am grappling with the concept of a guilty Bill Cosby being a bad man. My conundrum is that he may have been both good and bad.

Before anyone picks up a stone to hurl at me, I am not writing this post in an attempt to be a Bill Cosby apologist. Personally, I don’t know if the man is guilty or not, so I certainly don’t want to debate his culpability for the things he may or may not have done. I’m thinking more about his legacy. Was Bill Cosby a good or a bad human being?

I wrote here not long ago about a cognitive distortion call polarized thinking, sometimes also known as “black-and-white thinking.” Basically, this distortion means there is no middle ground; things are either good or they are bad. This is a distortion I have massive problems with. When it’s said the public has short memories concerning past sins of public figures, my opinion was not included in “the public.” I remember everything.

So here I am today, left with the perplexing nature of one Mr. William H. Cosby, Jr. To be sure, these are very serious allegations against Mr. Cosby. They have already cost him a new television project with NBC and have resulted in old episodes of The Cosby Show being yanked from syndication. In the places Cosby is still scheduled to appear, he faces threats of protests. He may have even been a rapist.

Cosby has also been a lot other things as well, things which can be proven. He has donated millions of dollars to charities, universities, and other causes. He entertained and attempted to educate children with programs such as Fat AlbertThe Electric Company, and Picture Pages. Probably most famously, he encouraged African-Americans to reach for the stars with his portrayal of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show, one of the most famous and influential sitcoms of all time.

Certainly none of these feats excuses a man from sexually assaulting a woman. What they do show, lukehowever, is that Cosby has, as the famous line from Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi states, “some good in him.” Consider this quote Cosby gave during an interview with The Christian Post in December 2011:

If you have no faith, you’ve lost your battle. You can’t let things just happen. If you know right from wrong, and you know proof that certain things are true and people are telling you information to guide you and it’s good solid information, then you should have it.

Who is this man, then? My brain is having trouble deciphering all this. There is only one conclusion I can arrive at.

Bill Cosby is a human being.

Human beings do bad things, and many times they have to face severe punishments for their actions. What they do, though, does not necessarily make them rotten to their cores. Human beings fall and fail all the time, some on a grander scale than others. If we could control our actions, keep ourselves under perfect control at all times, we never would have needed Jesus Christ to intervene on our behalf. Good men do bad things. Bad men do good things. It is a difficult thing to grasp.

If nothing else, the current Cosby situation has reminded me that while judgement in the courts may be ironclad, judgement between people often is not. For a polarized thinker like myself, the urge is there to run between the two extremes. The real Billy Cosby, though, like most of us, probably lives somewhere in between.


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