Support My Writing

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The kids AREN'T alright- Why getting wasted with the kids is never a good idea

Photo: Charlottesville Police Department/AP

If you live in the Commonwealth of Virginia, you can’t miss all the coverage of the tragic murder case where two young people attending the University of Virginia were caught up in a volatile and finally, lethal relationship.

It is a sad and sick story, even more so because it is a story that could happen to any family, under the same circumstances. In this case, it occurred in a family of financial and societal means.  The Huguely family had everything going for them, by our current standards of success and good fortune. He was nice looking, smart, athletic, privileged. So, how does something like this happen to a family? Is it environment, culture, genes, or a deadly combination of them all?
What happened?
The young man, George Huguely V, is on trial for murdering his former girlfriend, apparently in a drunken rage. Reading the accounts in the newspapers of his massive alcohol consumption and drinking habits is disturbing by itself.

Even more disturbing is the information that on at least occasion, he was drinking with his father, George IV; and on another occasion with his mother. Perhaps this is considered normal in many families, and if that is the case, I think there is more to worry about than college high- jinx and partying. Parents take note: many of you are NOT going to like some of the things I am going to say, but perhaps you may need to listen.

Getting loaded with the parents
I am truly disturbed by the sad details that have emerged from this trial. In addition to being shocked by the amount of drinking that is going on in the lives of college students, the worst and most damaging part of this tragedy is that the parents were at best, enablers, at worst, accomplices.  

Clearly the culture of alcohol abuse and addiction is passed from generation to generation, not only through genes, but by the messages and values these parents are imparting on their kids. Perhaps the parents, and this is clearly speculation on my part, as I do not know any of the parties involved- are so steeped in their own alcoholism that they failed to recognize the serious warning signs in their son’s behavior.

Perhaps it is simply the culture of boozing and getting plastered so you can let your inhibitions out in a very button-downed, WASPish environment. I know of families who engage in what I consider outrageous drinking with their adult children and I have very strong opinions about it. I am not going to get on a pedestal and say that they are being bad parents. I don’t have to. The proof is in the pudding.

Time and time again there are instances that come to light about parents who allow their children, even encourage them, to drink to excess. Some of them have been famous- politicians, celebrities, sports personalities. Now and again there are articles or news stories about everyday “regular” families where this happens. The kids get in trouble, and upon further investigation, it is discovered that they were partying with the parents.

The death of common sense or generational problems?
This leads us to ponder, what are these parent’s thinking? Clearly there are some very serious family dynamics to investigate, but we will leave that to the mental health professionals. Many parents don’t have proper boundaries with their children and want to “be their friends” more than they want to play a parental role.

And last but not least, the addiction issue. If mom and dad can’t monitor or control their own alcohol use, how are they going to be able to have a clear and objective view of Junior, or in this case, the fifth’s alcohol use or abuse?

Lessons learned
So here we have a beautiful young woman, brutally killed in the prime of life by a young man with everything to live for, who is now most likely going to spend the rest of his days behind bars. Being drunk out of your mind is not a legal defense. Many people don’t realize that important legal reality. Just because you were drunk does not negate responsibility.

Such a waste of two young lives, and for what? It’s all fun and games until someone gets killed. How many people die every year as a result of young people, or their parents, being drunk behind the wheel of a car? It is a wakeup call when it happens, but then… it’s too late.

Too late for some, but not for others
I hope and pray that this case will be the wakeup call for many of these college kids and their indulgent and reckless parents.
Parents- please stop getting drunk with your kids. Kids- please get the clue that just because mom and dad do it doesn’t mean it is right or okay. Be man, or woman, enough to see that excessive drinking and alcohol abuse is no way to deal with life or problems or societal pressure. If everyone at the country club is shitfaced, be an individual and save yourself, and your future kids, some heartache.

If you find that you can’t stop or you need support outside your family, there are places you can go for encouragement and support in a sober life. Don’t wait until something horrible happens, because it usually does.

Boylan Heights bar at center of U-Va. drinking scene - The Washington Post

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What I've learned from watching "Downton Abbey"

I am a huge fan of British period shows and movies. Let me repeat it for emphasis- I AM A HUGE FAN of British period shows and movies!  I have watched “Sense and Sensibility” more times than I can recall, and am teased about it by my family.  
I started watching PBS Masterpiece Theater as a pre-teen and have followed it religiously over the years. I have worshiped at the church of Anglophile television with a passionate fervor that most people can’t begin to understand.  I don’t know what it is about the British that appeals to me so much. To my knowledge, I don’t have a drop of British blood in my veins.  So you can only imagine the joy and excitement I experienced upon embarking on my “Downton Abbey” experience.
For those who have been living in a cave for the last year and haven’t, shudder, heard about “Downton Abbey”, I will enlighten you now.
"A star-studded cast (Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Brendan Coyle, Dan Stevens) round out the glittering, gossipy, and beguiling men and women of this epic tale!

After a tragedy at sea claims the life of the presumed heir, Lord Crawley is faced with the possibility that the house he's loved his whole life might someday belong to a distant cousin he's never met. But before that can happen he must deal with his scandalous daughter, Lady Mary - considered by many to be the rightful heir to Downton. Even the staff has opinions on the family's affairs. And while most are devoted to the Crawleys, there are others whose selfishness and scheming do more than simply disrupt the well-oiled inner workings of the estate. As the servants' mischief escalates, even the most faithful employees begin to imagine a different life.

Pitting hundreds of years of British aristocracy against the tides of social upheaval and technical progress, under the looming shadow of World War I, will the fate of Downton and its family - above and below stairs - be resolved? Or will life be altered so dramatically that its master no longer matters? " - PBS website

The many hours I spent watching “Downton Abbey” were a wonderful escape into another world, another era, another culture. But what truly moved me about the series was the emphasis on the value of ties that bind people together, year after year, through hardships and triumphs.
The servant-master relationships are very difficult to relate to or fathom from an American, twentieth century perspective. The turn of the century was a harsh and unforgiving time and place in which to live, especially for the poor and uneducated.

The show was balanced in portraying both the wealthy and privileged, and lowly and poor alike with character flaws.  The rich folk were portrayed as mostly kind and fair, and servants were shown to have just as many character flaws and evil intentions as the wealthy, titled crowd. I found that to be refreshing and more sophisticated than many programs or movies which portray servants and poor people as completely free of malice or misdeeds.
“Downton Abbey” has a wealth of fascinating lessons and great deep insights to impart. I will list a few:
Lesson #1- If you are going to marry for money, make sure you can tolerate the person on some level.
Lesson #2- If a doctor tells you that you will never walk again, make sure you get a second opinion.
Lesson #3- Servants have much more interesting lives than their masters.
Lesson #4- Having only daughters can be an expensive proposition. Especially when they can’t inherit any of the money or titles upon your death.
Lesson #5- Greedy, scheming, and nasty people will get what’s coming to them in the end.
Lesson #6- Dowager Countesses get all the really awesome lines!
Lesson #7- Class matters, especially in times of war and hunger, but it can’t protect you from tragedy.
Lesson #8- Sometimes the chauffer gets the heiress, but not usually.
Lesson #9- Watching outrageously wealthy people attempt to perform mundane tasks is endlessly amusing.
Lesson #10- Being the father of three spoiled, indulged, daughters is a challenge, even if you have a castle.
The greatest one of all: Lesson #11- Good, loyal friends and family bonds and are the things that truly get us through the difficulties and trials of life.
“Downton Abbey” may not appeal to everyone at first glance, but I promise it has entertainment value beyond the historical and cultural. There is plenty of humor and universally understood emotions that most people will be able to understand and appreciate.

Praise for Downton Abbey
"An instant classic."
The New York Times
"Compulsively watchable from the get-go."
       "Impossible to resist."
  Wall Street Journal