FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Teach Them Well

by MISSY COMLEY BEATTIE

On June 15, 16-year-old Ethan Couch turned the ignition of a Ford truck, drove 70 mph in a 40 mph zone, and killed four pedestrians who were working on a disabled vehicle on the side of the road. Couch had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit for an adult. He tested positive for Valium. Among Couch’s seven passengers, two were critically injured—one so severely he is paralyzed and communicates by blinking his eyes. Sergio Molina’s parents are suing Couch and his father’s business (the Ford was owned by the company) for $20 million, the expected cost of their son’s care.

Couch admitted he was drunk but a psychologist explained the teen’s behavior using the “affluenza” defense, a condition characterized by great wealth—so excessive that one doesn’t know right from wrong. In other words, Couch was given too much by his parents: too many toys, motorcycles, cars, STUFF (supposedly, even his own mansion), and not enough of what he needed: positive role models, caring, and responsible guidance. When Couch followed his every impulse, it must have been with certainty that his parents would use their wealth/status to mitigate accountability. And use him to battle each other after an acrimonious divorce.

According to attorney notes, Couch said to one of his passengers at the crash scene, “I’m Ethan Couch, I’ll get you out of this.”

Texas District Judge Jean Boyd sentenced Couch to ten years of probation and ordered him to receive in-patient therapy, a year at a posh facility near Newport Beach, California. The price tag for this treatment exceeds $450,000.

Judge Boyd’s decision must have been influenced by “affluenza” as well.

I’d just read about this case online when Laura called. She and Erma had seen the story on TV. “You have to write an article. Compare this to the un-moneyed and un-fluenza,” Laura said.
I continued to think about Couch, his parents, the dead and injured, the judge’s decision, “affluenza” and “un-fluenza.” Separate and unequal, multiple justice systems operate throughout this land of and for the opportunistic. Sergio Molina’s brother said, “If he [Couch] were poor, like us, he would’ve gotten 10 years, I bet.”

Later I lay in bed, considering all that was summoned to tumble in my mind. When Laura and Erma came for dinner a couple of evenings later, I confessed to something that Erma, who has children, understands. If either of us sat in a courtroom, awaiting the verdict and sentencing of one of our children, neither would want to jail time—even if we knew that child had driven drunk, had killed four people.

Really, I’d do just about anything to prevent the incarceration of my sons, at that age—any age. I can shake my head, feel outrage towards the judge (who meted out more “affluenza” for Couch), outrage at Couch’s indifference, outrage, outrage, outrage, and contempt for his parents, but if he were my child, I’d be relieved. Despite knowing the punishment is inconsonant with the crime.

Yet as I write, see these words, I wonder. Could either of my children commit a crime so hideous I’d reconsider, want him behind bars?

I’ve employed the tough love tactic and intimately know its benefits. It’s a frightening approach. I’m fortunate it succeeded. Had it not, I don’t know if I’d have followed through on the punishment I threatened, that edict, “You’re on your own if…” Really, I don’t know.

Charles and I raised our sons to consider the appropriate consequences of their decisions—to be emotionally healthy, not like Couch’s mother and father who rushed in with the inappropriate—the stay-out-of-jail money card. Obviously, they failed miserably to teach their son to do no harm, to value life over acquisitions.

No one knows what this broken family will learn, if anything. Do they think of the dead, the families of the dead? Do the parents wish they’d conducted themselves differently?

Ethan Couch may believe he’s entitled to make his own rules. Or maybe he’ll identify in at rehab, shed the artificial layers. Once denuded of self-deception, he possibly could become a productive member of society.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: missybeat@gmail.com.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

More articles by:
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Russell Mokhiber
The Rabble Rise Together Against Bernie, Barney, Elizabeth and Hillary
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
Sen. Bernard Sanders
What This Election is About: Speech to DNC Convention
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail