Monday, October 02, 2006

Demon Rum

The late father of my good friend John had a predictable response to those unfortunate moments when a child of his got in a car wreck or did something else reckless or stupid. If the child said he was drunk at the time of the offense, John's father would grimace for a moment and say, 'Well, why didn't you say so?" All, then, would be forgiven.

Most adults have done something unspeakably dumb under the influence. That's why alcohol is an extenuating circumstance in the minds of many grownups who grew up before there were mandatory seatbelt laws and prior to the founding of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

That's what's so sad but amusing about the news that former Rep. Mark Foley, Republican of Florida, checked into rehab in an apparent bid to blame his online come-ons to teenaged pages on his addiction to drink. Of course, Mel Gibson recently claimed alcohol turned him temporarily into a raving anti-Semite and I'm sure the recently out-of-rehab Robin Williams blames altered states for "Patch Adams." I am waiting for Pope Benedict to cop to being drunk when he made his recent anti-Muslim rant.

A low point has already been reached on this story as Republicans try to make this a story about homosexuals and thus deflect attention from the fact that the GOP House leadership, like the Roman Catholic hierarchy from the 1960s to the 1990s, ran their institution as a safehouse for pedophiles. Bill O'Reilly on Faux News took care to refer to Foley as a homosexual, as did Bay Buchanan on CNN. Buchanan said the House leadership should have more responded aggressively when they were told a story that involved a "homosexual" congressman and a teenaged boy. "Enough said," Buchanan said, casually lumping gays and pedophiles and drawing a challenge from no one on set, including Democratic strategist Paul Bagala.

Two points need to be made. Number one, pedophilia and homosexuality are not the same phenomena. When Matt Lauer wasted "Today Show" airtime interviewing the blonde former pinup model and school teacher from Florida who had an affair with a young boy, no one referred to her as the "heterosexual" child molester. Pedophiles are attracted to children. Homosexuality refers to an attraction to someone of the same gender. Some pedophiles victimize young people of the same gender. Most pedophiles are adult men attacking young girls.

Secondly, alcohol loosens inhibitions. It does not create mental illnesses that don't already exist. Mel Gibson was not a crusader for the ADL before he got arrested following a drunken joyride down an LA freeway. Mark Foley was not a safe and sane adult but for the perfidious influence of John Barleycorn. No one should buy that sorry excuse and I don't think anyone will. Perhaps the liquor industry should use a new slogan. "We don't make the sin. We just make it more monstrous."

Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.


John said...

I'm pretty sure my Pop would have drawn the line well short of where Foley crossed it. But that would assume that Foley were, in fact, a real drunk.
Surely there's a comparison to be found in the scoundrel who takes refuge behind false patriotism and the predator who blames imaginary alcoholism.
Real drunks everywhere are owed an apology.

Michael Phillips said...

John - You are absolutely right and I should clarify. Your dad would have drawn the line a neighborhood, if not a county, away from where Foley drew it. I was just noting the use of alcohol as an extenuating circumstances. This rationale, and the child abuse excuse, has really taken off since your father's generation.