FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Teach Them Well

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.

More articles by:

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
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail