When my editor suggested that I write about Rihanna this week, I ran screaming in the other direction. (Well, not literally. Journalists aren't that physically active. But I did mope and overeat, which is like running and screaming without the sweat and noise.) My first instinct was that I would rather juggle sacks of used needles than try to say something about this repellent and depressing soap opera while it's still unfolding, chapter by sordid chapter.
On some level, I wanted to shove this aside, not pick it apart. For every question raised by reports about the Grammy-weekend abuse that Rihanna allegedly took at the hands of Chris Brown, there's an easy answer. Maybe too easy. What kind of pig hits a woman? Ummm...a criminal. Or an overentitled celebrity. Or someone who grew up watching men hit women, as Brown has said he did. Pick the option that best matches your sense of misplaced sympathy or knee-jerk contempt. And what kind of woman gets back together with the man who hit her? A fool. Or someone who is so self-hating she thinks she had it coming or so in love she imagines it won't happen again. Or someone who might have grown up believing that it's no big deal. Choose your favorite rationalization as your stomach turns. And that's leaving out the considerable percentage of ugly commentary that reminds us that we're not such a ''post-racial'' nation after all.
What lessons should we draw from this? Okay, I'll play. Here's what they call the ''teachable moment'': Don't hit women. And don't give men who hit you a chance to hit you again, ever. But if we really need Rihanna and Chris Brown, or any celebrities at all, to teach us that, we are in seriously bad shape.
NEXT PAGE: Rihanna? A role model? Have we lost our minds?