“Get off of the t.v.” comment on Friday night’s Nancy Grace

So if you watched Nancy Grace on Friday night, you saw that we spent the whole hour on the case of another child who went missing after his brilliant mother hooked up with a known chaotic, violent (manslaughter, domestic violence), perverted (unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor), substance-abusing (DUI), creep, whose baby she’s of course now carrying.  She broke it off with the creep, who then apparently kidnapped the toddler (not his biological child) and committed murder/suicide by driving his car into a 50-foot-deep canal.  It’s not certain that the creep and the kid were in the car when it plunged into the water, but eyewitness testimony says they were.  The mother was on the show with us while we were showing live footage of the recovery operation to drag the creep’s car out of the murky canal and see what/who was in it.  I was asked by the guest host what advice I’d give the mother, and as an ethical clinical psychologist, I said I’d advise her to “get off of the t.v.” and surround herself with her support system, family, friends, etc., and brace herself for what could be some very difficult news.  I have to note that nobody at CNN, to their credit, has said anything to me about this comment, even though I know having the woman on the show probably made for better, more dramatic, television.  For me, being a television commentator doesn’t take precedence over being a clinician when someone is suffering like she clearly was.  The benefit to a missing child’s parent of coming on a t.v. show is that it raises awareness of the child’s disappearance.  In this case, I thought it was clear enough where the child was that the strain of trying to hold herself together on t.v. was no longer worth it, especially for a pregnant woman.  In case you missed the show and you’re wondering, the bodies were not in the car, but the windows of the car were broken, and given that decomposing bodies produce gases, causing them to become bloated and buoyant in water, I think it’s likely that they came out of the car and moved downstream in the canal during the week that the car was submerged.  Apparently, the local authorities think that, too, as a search of the canal remains underway.  (By the way, if you saw on Facebook that I was also supposed to be on Nancy Grace: America’s Missing right after that show, and you spent an hour of your Friday night watching it and didn’t see me, I’m sorry — I think the combination of a new show, a guest host, and some breaking news updates from the previous hour made it just too chaotic to get all the scheduled guests worked in, but I really appreciate your watching.)

Oh, and speaking of substance-abusing creeps, actor Charlie Sheen apparently went on another binge, which is being followed by yet another round of “rehab.”  And while I’m on the subject of addicts, remember the financier who allegedly defrauded investors out of billions of dollars and now claims to be incompetent to stand trial (see my last post)?  Well, apparently part of his incompetency claim is based on his alleged need for drug “rehab” (due, I guess, to an addiction that he supposedly developed to the painkillers that he started taking after a jail-house fight and resulting head/facial injuries and surgery).  Seems to me he’s already in the best “rehab” available — a jail cell.  Most addicts have to be convinced to separate themselves from their substances.  Not this guy.  We have this guy in custody.  His “rehab” should be relatively easy — no drugs (at least no abusive quantities of drugs, maybe he needs some ongoing pain management, maybe he doesn’t) get into his cell, and anyone who tries to bring them there ends up in the cell next door immediately, with jail medical staff on hand just to observe and address any potentially-fatal withdrawal symptoms.  That’s about what Rehab with Dr. Brian Russell would look like (I know, a little different from how Dr. Drew does it)!  I’d say it’s time for Sheen to try my brand of rehab, too.

In other news, there’s a lot of unrest in Egypt; if you’ve been watching the news over the past few days, you couldn’t have missed it, and it has an interesting psycho-political angle.  In 2000, I was in Peru when the president of that country failed to turn over power to his elected successor, basically declared himself dictator, disbanded the legislature, ordered every household to fly the country’s flag, put tanks in the streets and military aircraft in the air over residential neighborhoods, etc.  It was almost surreal for me, as an individual American, to see democracy suppressed that way.  Diplomatically though, it put the U.S. in a difficult position — as much as we support democracy, the democratic alternative to that guy’s government looked like it was going to be a bunch of Marxists.  The current situation in Egypt, where I’ve also spent time, is similar.  The president there has disbanded his cabinet but has vowed to retain the office of president without allowing free and fair elections.  The protesters in the streets are demanding democratic reforms.  If they get them, though, there’s reason to fear that they’d elect an Islamic fundamentalist government that would oppress minorities (non-Muslims and even non-fundamentalist Muslims), suppress dissenting views (not much different from the current regime, tyranny of the majority), threaten peace and stability within the region (by attempting to impose its philosophy on its neighbors), threaten particularly the peace treaty long in place between Egypt and Israel (a vital U.S. ally), and even give sanctuary and support to groups like Al Qaeda that threaten us here in the U.S.A.  So here, our choice may well be between a region-stabilizing, relatively-secular dictator and a bunch of fundamentalist Islamists.  Pure democracy is pure majority rule, and that’s neither what we really practice here in the U.S. nor what we advocate.  What we practice and advocate is democracy with protection of minority rights.  For example, there have been times in our history when certain communities in this country have or would have voted, by large majorities, to oppress, even to condone violence toward, racial minorities.  We don’t tolerate votes like that here.  We have a Constitution (yes, I know it can be changed, but only by a “supermajority,” which makes it very hard to change) that restricts the kinds of laws that we can vote on by prohibiting laws that violate certain guaranteed individual rights and freedoms, anywhere in the country.  They don’t have that in Egypt, or throughout much of the Middle East, not in practice anyway.  So, as in the case of Peru a decade or so ago, we’re having to do a diplomatic balancing act unless/until we can determine that one side or the other, dictatorship or chaos, is clearly the “lesser of two evils” in Egypt.

There are new indictments in the case of the “Dating Game Killer.”  This creep, whose name is Rodney Alcala, was once, ironically, a contestant on the long-defunct game show, The Dating Game, as a supposedly “eligible bachelor” with whom a young female contestant could’ve chosen to have a date, hence his moniker.  He’s been on California’s death row since February 2010 for sexually-assaulting and murdering four women and a 12-year-old girl in the 1970’s.  Yes, that means he had already raped and killed when he appeared on The Dating Game in 1978.  Luckily for her, the female contestant in that episode declined a date with him.  But guess what else?  When he appeared on that show, had had been convicted of and served prison time (but only 34 months when it should’ve been life) for raping an eight-year-old!  Hopefully, game shows are doing a better job of checking into contestants’ backgrounds these days.  (I know that some interview and reality shows are because I sometimes get called to do psychological assessments of their prospective participants.)  New evidence suggests that Alcala’s responsible for the murders of at least two additional women in New York, also dating back to the 1970’s, so he has now been indicted for those murders.

A couple of teachers are in trouble in the news.  The first, in California, is in trouble for going over her principal’s head to the district superintendent and local authorities when her second-graders reported that a fellow student was bullying them and threatening to bring weapons to school.  I say bravo!  Not enough teachers are doing enough to ensure their students’ physical safety on campus.  And thanks to Bill O’Reilly’s coverage of this story, she’s headed back to the classroom on Monday after being suspended for the past several weeks!  I still think someone needs to look into whether there might be some criminal liability in that story, not just on the part of the juvenile, but on the part of any adult, i.e. the superintendent and principal, who had reason to believe that a specific child’s safety was threatened and didn’t drop a dime to child protective services as every teacher, in every state, is required by law to do.  Failure to report can, and should, be punished by a fine, the loss of one’s teaching license, and even jail time in extreme cases.  The other teacher in trouble is yet another female teacher, this one in Colorado, caught having sex with one of her underage male students (and providing liquor to him).  If you try to search for this story online, you’ll probably find that there are a few more just like it going on elsewhere!  Whenever these stories are in the news, people always ask me why we’re seeing more and more of this.  I always refer them to my blog post, “Tawdry, Trollop, Temptress Teachers” dated 11/4/07 (if you go to the December 2010 archive on this page, all of the posts from my previous blog platform are there, archived by month).

Also on the subject of kids, there’s a new book out, something to do with “Tiger Moms” in the title, the author of which advocates extremely strict parenting, stuff like no television in the home, mandatory violin and/or piano mastery, no sports teams, no sleepovers, etc.  Most people who’ve interviewed this woman have lambasted her as being over the top, which she is.  HOWEVER, most parents in this country, in my opinion, aren’t being strict ENOUGH in raising their kids, trying to be too much in the “friend” role and not enough in the “parent” role with respect to their kids.  So, I don’t advocate “strict” adherence to this book’s prescription for successful parenting — despite their academic successes, I wonder whether the author’s kids have been socialized such that they’re likely to live successful lives interpersonally (there’s an ongoing missing-person’s case in Baltimore, MD in which a 16-year-old girl, apparently raised in similar fashion, was allowed to visit her sister at college over the Christmas break and went missing after drinking, smoking marijuana, and spending time with multiple previously-unknown young men — unaccustomed to making any of her own choices, she probably grossly underestimated the risks inherent in that combination of activities).  I DO, however, think that many parents and their children could benefit from the parents’ moving some degrees toward this author’s prescribed course of parenting.  But finally tonight, here’s a strict parent whose example you definitely don’t want to follow (and I don’t mean to make light of it because it’s tragic) — a Florida woman shot and killed her two teenagers on Friday and readily admits that she did it because they were just too “mouthy.”

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