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

Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail