Maybe I'm just a pessimist, but it really annoys me when people feel obligated to find a silver lining where one does not exist. Perhaps people think that whenever a tragedy occurs—a tragedy like the false accusation of three talented Duke students—that we are somehow being shortchanged if no lessons are learned or takeaways garnered. Consider, for example, Duke's new "Campus Culture Initiative" (CCI) that was fostered in the wake of a drugged stripper's lies. Or, consider the sociological rant published by a regular columnist in this very community.
What do they have in common?
Each and every person who reflects upon the Duke case and says "the players were innocent, but" should be ashamed of themselves. Duke University's administration should be ashamed of itself. Ryan Alberti should be ashamed of himself. Those students who cheered for Mike Nifong at all of his self-aggrandizing press conferences should be ashamed of themselves.
Why? Because they are foolish enough to think that the false accusations speak to anything about the Duke players or the community in which they live. Such a viewpoint is abhorrent. The players and their way of life should not be coming under scrutiny. For Duke to release a study about campus culture in the wake of this case suggests something awful. It suggests that even though the players were innocent, the school is going to uphold some sort of critical reaction—yes, it's a small reaction, but a reaction nonetheless.
Maybe Duke will accept fewer athletes on scholarship, or maybe they will crack down on socializing. It's too early to say. But even a small change in how Duke goes about its life represents a big statement: "The players were completely innocent, but we are going to lend the stripper credence by changing our way of life."
If there are lessons from this debacle—and that's a big if—then they should pertain only to the nature of false accusations in our nation.
That's a real problem that needs fixing.
What will happen to the stripper now that she has been proven a liar? Will she be held accountable? Might she go to jail? Can she be sued? Most Americans probably have no idea what happens next. Why don't we reflect about that point, instead of worrying about students who, as far as we know, are perfectly upstanding.
Any other form of reactive self-reflection is irresponsible. After all, isn't it illogical to say, "We are going to make changes because of something you didn't do."
You're damn right it is.