Jewish World Review Dec. 16, 2002 / 11 Teves, 5763
The Houston lesson
In case you didn't see Ms. Houston making a fool of herself on national television, the highlights of the interview are these: She admitted abusing alcohol, pills, pot and cocaine. But she insisted no addiction was involved, she just had a "bad habit." She also reserves the right to get blasted in the future, and if you don't like it, well, tough.
Then, Whitney's husband, a singer named Bobby Brown, was called in from the bullpen and promptly told Diane Sawyer that he is bipolar and uses pot "every other day" to smooth himself out.
At this point, I was about to change the channel because I have seen dysfunctional adults before, and having them intrude on my leisure time is not a good thing. But then, Ms. Houston allowed her little daughter, who apparently had been listening to the whole pitiful interview, to sit before the camera. I was stunned. The poor child looked frightened and insecure. Was it the TV camera or just being in the same room with her nutty parents?
I went on television the next day and said I thought Whitney Houston's lifestyle and conduct could be seen as child abuse. I interviewed a few child-care experts, and they all agreed that a parent abusing drugs and alcohol in front of a child is committing abuse. They all agreed that becoming intoxicated in a place where little kids are living is damaging to children almost every time.
And they all agreed on one more thing: That no action should be taken against Whitney Houston.
The experts hemmed and hawed, but the consensus was that Ms. Houston and her husband probably loved the little girl, and that was enough to override any emotional damage the child might sustain living in a home with two parents who embrace intoxication.
The child-care people pointed out that removing any kid from his or her parents is usually more traumatic for the child than continuing to live in a chaotic household.
It is hard to argue with that thinking. The Department of Health and Human Services says that more than half a million American children are under the supervision of various states right now. The numbers are so great that social services systems cannot adequately monitor the children, and abuse in foster homes and state facilities is rampant. Child protection agencies are overwhelmed with violent abuse cases, so passive abuse like parental drug and alcohol involvement is often overlooked.
The result is that millions of American kids are growing up in homes where intoxication is on display. And those children are being harmed.
I know of an Irish-American family in Charlestown, Mass., just across the bridge from Boston, where a functioning alcoholic father and his saintly wife raised 12 children on a longshoreman's salary. This father carried a flask and a thirst every day of his life.
Nine out of the 12 kids grew up to become alcoholics. The pain those people endured and inflicted on others was enormous.
The only solution to this problem is a societal condemnation of parents who are substance abusers, but in America today, that is impossible. Just three days after Whitney Houston's embarrassing admissions, thousands turned out to cheer her in a New York performance.
We have become a nation that refuses to make judgments about bad behavior, even when that behavior hurts innocent children. If we lived in a righteous society, Whitney Houston would be singing to herself, as decent people concerned for her daughter would make a statement by shunning the diva.
But no, we aren't willing to make that kind of stand. It really is none of our business, you see. What Whitney Houston or any other parent does is not for us to judge.
Hillary Clinton was right, it does take a village to raise a child. But right now there are so many idiots in the village that is modern America, that many kids don't have a chance. Groove on that thought for a while, Whitney.
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