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

January 21, 2019
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail