I suffer from a lack of contemporary culture awareness. When, three years ago, Rihanna was beaten by then-boyfriend Chris Brown, my first thought was "That's horrible . . . Chris who?" (I had heard of Rihanna, even if I couldn't think of a single song of hers.)
So now the two of them are back in the news, in The New York Times no less. Because they both performed in the 2012 Grammys broadcast. There was some disgruntled buzz about why a convicted woman-beater was allowed to perform, and then more buzz after BuzzFeed aggregated some tweets by some women who said they'd take a beating from Brown any day.* And because they each have new songs out, featuring each other (at least on the "remix" versions).**
Jon Caramanica, author of the above-mentioned NY Times article, reads into these two collaborations a need for all parties to move on and away from the "black cloud." Rihanna does not want to live as a victim, and Brown wants to rehabilitate his image. There seems to be support all around from the music community. Caramanica describes this as "a desire by both to reshape the narrative" of how much that event in 2009 affects their future(s). As if they want to put it all behind, perhaps even to forget anything bad happened. Caramanica's ending line is "You want to forget? Fine. But don't forgive."
And that's the part I just don't get. Perhaps it's the connotations I connect with forgiveness and forgetfulness. To forgive is something you do for yourself, free yourself from the emotional bondage of trauma. You want to move on. To forget is to not only to not remember, but to also to not have learned anything. You want to move on regardless of the cost, and quite possibly risk repeating history and trauma. I've know a few people like that.
Rihanna, it's okay to publicly forgive. But please don't forget. Don't let your fans forget, either.
*I'd bet if you asked any of those women what they meant when they tweeted that it would be okay to be beaten by Chris Brown, you'd probably get a blank look as they said well, no, not REALLY, like they were just telling the world how much they love him regardless of what he does off the stage, and like since they weren't beaten it doesn't really factor into how they like feel about him as an artist or person. Like, it doesn't really mean anything because they like really didn't put a whole lotta thought before they tweeted.
** Wanna hear the songs? Try these links: