Sunday, April 09, 2006

Public Intoxication

What are your feelings about drunk driving and getting caught?  Is that an unpardonable sin, or is that just a normal occurrence that you’re just glad isn’t a bit more normal?  What about for a politician?  Does that make them worse?  Are they less capable of governing or legislating because they got caught driving while drunk?  And isn’t it the getting caught part that’s important?  I mean, who hasn’t drove drunk?  Only folks who don’t drink haven’t driven drunk (drunk being defined as the legal limit (usually 0.8%) and not your own standard (ie, being shitfaced).  And do you really want to trust somebody who doesn’t even drink?  I mean, really?  There’s nothing wrong with drinking in moderation, and it’s quite possibly even good for you.  And so should we hold it against our teetotaling politicians?  Maybe, maybe not.  But I fail to see how we should hold it against a politician, merely for being unlucky enough to get caught driving while drunk.  Hell, I can even see holding it against them for being unlucky; but the getting caught thing just doesn’t do it for me.  And unless we can know that somebody has never driven drunk, then all we’re really talking about is an issue of luck.

But then again, I’m completely against this “public individual” idea anyway.  The idea that because somebody becomes famous, we automatically get permission to dig into their private lives and discuss the most intimate details of their lives is simply wrong.  But not only do people feel that way, they act as if they have a right to full access of our public individuals’ lives.  But again, that’s just not right.  Governing is a job.  Legislating is a job.  Movie making and singing and performing are jobs.  Just like any other job.  Sure, we need to know something about them to vote, but it should remain focused on what they’re going to do on the job; not what they do in private.  Plenty of great men (and probably women) have done lousy things in their private lives, yet that didn’t deter them from doing a great job.  And it doesn’t matter if they occasionally make themselves public in order to perform that job; that doesn’t give us special rights to delve into their lives.

And that’s the thing, we know that this behavior is wrong.  It’s wrong to delve into other people’s lives and seek out intimate details and gossip them to everybody.  We all do it, but we know it’s wrong.  And while it is done, there are certain rules about gossiping in private life and there are some things that are just off-limits.  But for some reason, people use the idea of celebrity as an excuse to by-pass those rules and fully engage in these bad practices.  Imagine if somebody liked you so much that they wanted to snap pictures of you all the time and sell them to others.  Totally off-limits.  I don’t care how good looking you are or how interesting your life is; that’s just wrong.  And yet people do that to celebrities all the time.

And this “celebrity” excuse is really getting out of hand.  It’s been standard practice that anybody famous is fair game.  But they’ve recently switched things around so that if you’ve done anything that’s worth gossiping about, then you’re an automatic celebrity.  The very fact that people want to talk about you dictates that they’re allowed to do so.  But it makes about as much sense as the original argument, so I guess we can’t really complain.  I mean, what is it exactly about being a public figure that says everything about you is public?  That once you’ve done a movie that makes you famous, you’ve implicitly denied any right to privacy for the rest of your life?  Why shouldn’t we just use the same rules for everyone; and just admit that everyone is fair game all the time?  And yet, we know that’s wrong.  We know that we shouldn’t be delving into other people’s personal lives and gossiping about them; so why shouldn’t we extend that courtesy to our public figures?

And what about drunk driving?  Sure, it shows a certain lack of good judgment, but what is it that we’re worried about here?  That they’re going to be legislating in Congress with a good buzz going on?  And is that so wrong?  Winston Churchill spent the better part of two decades in a liquor-induced coma (or the British equivalent there of); and yet he helped lick fascism almost single-handedly and wrote some damn fine historical books.  You tell Winston Churchill about drinking in office!  Tell Winston Churchill about drinking in office!  If you’re lucky, he’ll puke on your shoes and spit in your eyes.  And is that really enough to demand that he be removed from office?  I mean, there’ll always be another pair of shoes, but there’s only one WWII.

And finally, it hasn’t escaped my attention that the biggest attackers of drunk driving politicians are almost always that politician’s opponents; while the politician’s supporters generally don’t seem concerned enough about it to even bother remembering that it happened.  And the cynic in me tells me that perhaps these attacks are mostly politically motivated.  And so it is with all these exposed private lives.  Why?  Because it’s easier than addressing substance.  It’s much easier to cite your opponent’s DUI or bestiality conviction than it is to frame your own argument; but isn’t that reason enough to resist rewarding such tactics?  

And sure, we probably have a right to know if one of the candidates is a heroin addict; but I’m not exactly sure what’s so wrong with having engaged in bad behavior decades earlier, especially if that behavior has no real impact on the guy’s job performance.  And too often, what gets these guys in trouble is the cover-up.  From Bush’s National Guard absence to Ben Domenach’s WaPo blog flop, the big problem wasn’t the prior offenses but the current cover-up.  Even now, neither of those creeps has been entirely honest about their past record, and while the old offense is somewhat irrelevant for the new job; a current cover-up really does look bad.  But the problem is that you can never know if your cover-up’s going to be busted, and they prefer to play the odds and hope for the best.  But if people stopped caring about these prior mistakes…ah, fuck it.  This was originally started as a drunken rant about drunk driving laws late last night, and while I extended it quite a bit today, I’m really tired of writing this.  You can just imagine your own spectacular ending.

P.S. Don’t bother leaving comments about how you’ve never driven while drunk or that you don’t drink at all, because I’m just not having it.  


Anonymous said...

I would really prefer to repeal the laws about using breathalyzer tests, in favor of using some other kind of test...probably something motor-skill-related. Even if you're not drunk, if you can't walk a straight line and touch your nose while sober, you have no business being behind the wheel.

0.08% is draconian. I've driven perfectly fine (occasionally even better than I drive sober) with surely much worse percentages than that.

-A Fellow Austiner

John of the Dead said...

Hey now. I resent that implication. I have NEVER driven while even the slightest bit intoxicated. If I am out, I don't drink, unless I know for a fact I won't have to drive for at least two hours. Spare met the, "Everyone does it," clap-trap.

Now, I further disagree with your assertion that drunk driving is not a big deal. Public intox - meh. I got no quarrel with someone making an ass of himself. But driving - no way. In my opinion, the FIRST offense for DUI should be a $10,000 fine and six-month suspension. The second offence should be a PERMANANT revocation of driving privileges. It's far too dangerous and kills too many people to be treated lightly. Doc, I normally agree with many of your posts, but here I think you're way off base.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Sorry John OTD, but I'm just not having it.

As for the driving drunk thing, I'm fine with criminalizing it, but I want it to be for being DRUNK not for having a drink or two. 0.08% is a joke. Even 0.1% was a joke. Now, if they'd raise that to a respectable level, I could understand. But there's nothing wrong with having two or three drinks and driving. Not that I'm big into drunk driving; in fact, I make a point of always avoiding it (I always make the other durnks drive). But I think this should be about drunkeness and not some arbitrary bullshit limit that MADD invented.

And for the record, I'd rather have a good President convicted of DWI than the one we've got now.

Mumphrey said...

Hey, now.
I drink a glass of wine at home some nights; sometimes I have 2 or 3 glasses. Some nights I have a bottle of beer, or 2 or even, now and then, 3. Sometimes I have a glass of lime juice with honey and Flor de Caña, which if you don't know, is the best rum in the world; it comes from Nicaragua, and if anybody knows how to make rum, it's the Nicaraguans.
Well, anyway.
But I just don't drink at all when I go out, because my wife likes margaritas, and one of us has to drive back. I have from time to time driven after having a brre or 2, but never without waiting a few hours, and I don't think I've even done that in the last 10 years. It's just not worth the risk; even if you don't kill anybody, you could still get pulled over.
Now, I do plead guilty to riding my bike while drunk, in Washington, D.C., in Philadelphia and in Tela, Honduras.