Earlier last week, Liam Neeson, the famous actor most notably known for his role in the ‘Taken’ franchise had an interview in which he told a story from his past. The story, however was far from something you’d tell your children, instead involving one of his friends being raped. As a result, Neeson inquired about the skin color of the assailant, leading him to go out for several nights looking for a “black bastard I could kill.”
Unsurprisingly, the public did not enjoy those comments, with calls to boycott his films quickly arising.
However, is this really the appropriate response?
Neeson had nothing to gain by coming out with that story, in fact he had a lot to lose. Though what he did in the process was make clear one of the many human foibles that we all wish weren’t there.
The first step to overcoming a problem must always be to acknowledge that you do indeed have a problem. Neeson was in no way promoting his behavior as correct or even sane, but rather the contrary. It seemed to be a genuine moment of vulnerability and reflection, with Neeson even admitting he’d never told a journalist that before.
So what do we do when a man opens up about one of his deepest regrets?
We tell him he’s a monster and shouldn’t be allowed to work again.
For a second, I want you to imagine Liam Neeson is your friend. Now imagine your friend opens up to you about something they’re ashamed of, that they clearly just want to get off their chest. How would you react?
I’d hope most people would come from a place of acceptance and kindness.
Sure Neeson shouldn’t have brought race into the equation, as it was clearly a prejudicial rage. But what did he do afterward? He thought about it, realized his behavior was wrong and owned up to it later in life. What more can anyone expect?
We as a society must be able to handle these kinds of difficult conversations, instead of instantly beginning a witch-hunt the second somebody steps out of line.
None of us are perfect. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t once imagined hurting someone else, even if it’s just a stranger who cuts you off in traffic on a bad day.
But rather than deal with our own imperfections, we hide them. We hide them and scold anyone who makes the mistake of ever breaking order. This isn’t progressive, it’s Orwellian.
Until we can mature and accept that the world isn’t, as Rocky Balboa says, “all sunshine’s and rainbow’s” we will continue projecting this infantile idealism which is destroying public conversation.