As usual, the talking heads work overtime on pointless news items as though they rank right up there with revolution in Egypt and Pluto’s demotion from planet status. So what is one of these news events? Lindsay Lohan is in trouble again. Now the one-time Parent Trap sweetheart turned twenty-something rehab queen is being charged with grand theft over a necklace she says she didn’t take but was photographed wearing (on her way out of rehab no less). Now one expert after another is being brought forward to pontificate on what needs to happen to Lohan next.
Nancy Grace, star of Swift Justice and former hard-nose prosecutor speaking of Lohan declared America has a “two-tier justice system” that affords celebrities with a whole different set of rules than everyone else. “I believe celebrities get into so much trouble because they think the rules don’t apply to them,” Nancy said. “I think it becomes instinct that they can do, say whatever they want, and there’s no repercussions.”
With such high-profile cases among Hollywood stars and professional athletes does Grace have a point? Of course she does, but is that really where we ought to be looking for double standards in the first place? Perhaps Bret Favre blew it in the twilight of his career and perhaps he’s been unfairly accused. But are these headline newsworthy items? Whatever the case, Favre and Lohan have one thing in common: they aren’t on the public payroll. Let a starlet like Lohan or even Charlie Sheen keep it up and sooner or later the marketplace will take over as their Q factor drops off the charts. Regardless of what is finally proven or disproved about Favre, he will still go home to his farm and horses in Mississippi and enjoy what he earned by doing a job with excellence for 20 years. And you and I won’t be out one nickel regardless of what Lohan, or Sheen, or Favre has done or not done.
Not so with the people in Washington whose check we sign. Mark Twain once said, “Congress may be America’s only distinct criminal class” and that still holds true. Consider these findings from Capitolhillblue.com about members of the United States Congress a couple of years ago. A cursory search found among sitting members of congress:
- 29 have been accused of spousal abuse.
- 7 have been arrested for fraud.
- 19 have been accused of writing bad checks.
- 117 have bankrupted at least two businesses.
- 3 have been arrested for assault.
- 71 have credit reports so bad they can’t qualify for a credit card.
- 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges.
- 8 have been arrested for shoplifting.
- 21 are current defendants in lawsuits.
- In 1998 alone, 84 were congressman who were stopped for drunk driving, but released after claiming congressional immunity.
So the question rises, why don’t we have panels of talking heads pounding us every day with these facts? Why are we so quick to point fingers at people like Lohan who allow money and fame to corrupt them, while repeatedly voting for politicians we know to be serial law breakers? Could it be that in some ways, at our collective core, we have been corrupted along with them?
This was no better illustrated to me when the late Jamie Whitten (D) of north Mississippi was running to keep his seat in Congress after over 50 years in Washington. He was a Democrat that consistently held the party line on social issues even though they went totally against the conservative bent of his constituents.
“Why do you keep on voting for him?” I asked an older man I knew who was not pleased with the Democrats’ stance on things like abortion and other social issues. The old farmer thought a moment and replied, “Because we would lose our dairy subsides without him.” So I ask you, what bothers you more? A spoiled rich girl getting herself in trouble or someone who knows better but places his own profit above the greater good? As much as it feels good for a moment to rail against the “bums in Washington,” maybe it’s time to look at the bum in our own soul.
Maybe the monkey does because it sees us.