Monday, May 05, 2003

Okay. So. The Bill Bennett thing. If you're not a political junkie like me, then here's the news: Bill Bennett is an ex-politico who now makes a living writing books about Morals (capital M is compulsory), then going on TV to make cluck-cluck noises whenever somebody famous gets caught doing something bad. Now, it turns out, he has a very serious gambling habit. Probably lost about $8 million over the years.

Now that the story's come out, there's basically a dogpile going on. And who can blame them? He's been an obnoxious prig for years, and it's always gratifying when we get to cluck our tongues at one of the mother-cluckers who like to pray on the street corner.

Bennett's defense, if you can call it that, is that he's more or less broken even over the years, and it's not like he's hurting anybody, he just does it to relax, and he never 'bets the milk money.' Which sounds exactly like the kind of defense we all offer when somebody finds out about our secret vice, whether it's booze, or porn, or gambling, or weed, or shopping, or whatever. And, while some of us are in denial, most of us are probably right. Most of us have something that gets us through the night, and it's generally something the neighbors would frown at, unless they happen to share the same vice, in which case you become quick and shallow friends. Myself, I like to get really stoned, hide in the tree in front of my house with a BB gun, and take potshots at the neighborhood kids as they walk home from school. But I only do it in the winter when they have heavy coats on, and I never break the skin, so I don't think I'm really hurting anyone. But enough about me.

My grandfather didn't drink. A complete teetotaler. And, as a matter of fact, he did drink a lot of tea. My dad, on the other hand, did. And does. He mostly drinks wine these days, but when he was younger, he was somewhat less discerning (as most of us are when we're young). At some point, he was on the receiving end of yet another lecture from his father on the immorality of drink, my dad responded with, "But, Dad, you don't like to drink!" His point (and growing up we heard this story often) was that it's easy to condemn the sins you don't have a taste for. But we all have a taste for something, so when, for example, I look at Bill Bennett's gambling, I should try and think of it not the way I think of gambling (which I have no taste for, thank god), but in terms of how much I enjoy taking potshots at school kids while out of my mind on meth (did I mention the meth? I thought I mentioned the meth.). Until I've hung up the BB gun, I've got no right to judge Bennett for his gambling.

Yes, Bennett's a public scold. All that means is that his taste for self-righteousness is just as strong as his taste for video poker (Jesus! Video poker? What is he, an 80-year-old woman?). And, well, I've got some bad emotional habits as well, though thank god self-righteousness isn't one of them. So, while I appreciate the sentiment that drives other writers to jump onto that dogpile, I won't be joining in. It just wouldn't feel right, letting myself stoop to his level.

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