Sunday, August 6, 2006

What a Drunkard Says

I was married to an alcoholic and we used to have endless discussions about the meaning of what a drinker says when he's drunk. My view was that the wounding comments and hateful allegations are what they really think but are kept from saying by their inhibitions when they are sober. Alcohol lowers those inhibitions and allows them to say what they believe without considering the consequences.

His contention was that you should ignore everything anyone says or does when they are under the influence. They don't really mean to say what they say or to do what they do. Alcoholics almost seem to see being drunk as a "home free" zone.

"Oh, I called you blankin' bitch? You know I didn't really mean it, Honey, I was drunk."

"Oh, I embarrassed the kid in front of his friends?"

"Oh, I put the car into the ditch?"

"Oh, you paced the floor all night worrying because I didn't come home and you didn't know whether I was hurt, dead or in jail?"

"Ah, well, I get a pass on all of it because I was drunk at the time so none of it counts?"

See how it works?

Which brings us to Mel Gibson spewing anti-Semitic garbage when he was arrested for drunk driving. He uses the same "I was drunk" defense to explain away the hatefulness. But I feel the same way about Mel as I felt about my husband. Those ugly words had to come from somewhere. I mean, he didn't say, "I hate walruses. Walruses are the most evil beasts on earth." No, he chose to dis the Jews and you have to believe that in some part of his brain, it's what he really thinks or there would have been no Mel Gibson mental database for him to tap into.

There have been, of course, endless hours of television coverage about Mel's situation. This is just the kind of juicy scandal t.v. commentators love to pontificate about. They speak in such serious tones, as if they are truly convinced this is a high-minded, socially relevant discussion when they really just want to dish the dirt on a celebrity.

There have also been long debates about Mel on the Police discussion group I belong to. Mostly, the cops think he got unfair treatment because, of course, if he wasn't rich and famous, no one would have leaked his D.U.I. paperwork to the media. It's a non-story when a local nobody rants and raves while he's being arrested for drunk driving. (The members of the List are mostly strongly conservative and I have a feeling they wouldn't have been quite as sympathetic if the arrestee had been the producer of Fahrenheit 911 rather than the producer of the Passion of the Christ - but maybe I'm being cynical).

I personally have no compassion for Mel in this regard. My thinking is that lots and lots of benefits stem from being rich and famous. Everywhere you go and everything you do, your wealth and celebrity buy you special treatment. If you are a Bono, you can call upon Presidents and Senators and television news anchors to assist you in your goal of helping poor Africans. If you are a Don Imus, you can raise a gazillion dollars almost overnight to fund a ranch for kids with cancer or a hospital for amputees coming back from Iraq.

So it is only natural that when the rich and famous screw up, they reap the same kind of mega-attention, only in the negative rather than the positive. They can't have it both ways. I have a feeling that, even now, Mel wouldn't want to be a poor non-entity, even if it meant the details of his arrest would be buried in a Sheriff's Department file cabinet somewhere.