Respect message lost on Charlie Sheen

April 5, 2011 

I owe Sean Parnell an apology. I meant to participate in the march last week to promote the end of the epidemic of domestic violence in this state and encourage men and women to always choose respect in all relationships. But I forgot. There is no other explanation and no way to make it sound good. I simply forgot. I'm old. It happens.

As I read about the march I was struck by the dichotomy of its message to choose respect with the spectacle to which the media has exposed us over the past few weeks of Charlie Sheen.

Even before his latest little dustup, I found myself offended again and again by the fact that he seemed to not only get away with domestic violence, drug abuse and public disrespect for women, but each time an incident happened, his network responded by giving him more money. And the general public responded by making his show number one.

Is living vicariously through Charlie Sheen revealing to us what many people in America really wish they could get away with? How scary is that thought?

Most men who publicly boast about snorting a seven-gram rock of cocaine will get at least a cursory visit by their local police officer. Charlie Sheen gets sold- out concert gigs at Radio City Music Hall. Most men who threaten their wives with a knife during a drug-fueled rage will find themselves on an intimate basis with the inside of a prison cell, if only for a little while. Charlie Sheen finds himself intimate with a multimillion-dollar payday.

If there was any doubt that the rich are different from you and me, or that a lot of money can buy you a WAY better brand of justice in America, you need look no further.

What I find most difficult to accept is that Sheen's crazed rants on TV interviews and YouTube appearances are not only wildly popular, but have gained him a huge following. Do all those people really think that drugs, whores, domestic violence and total disrespect for the concept of parenting are things to be applauded? Things to be celebrated? Because if they do, then we have a much more serious problem in our society than any of us previously imagined.

How can we promote a message of choosing respect for each other, of not abusing those we claim to love, of raising families in healthy homes, while at the same time snapping up tickets to hear this raging, drug-addicted, almost toothless wife abuser tell us how he's "winning?"

He's not a hero. He's not a nice man. He's a nasty, ego-addled, spoiled brat who has been able to buy his way out of our criminal justice system time and time again until it seems as though nothing short of murder will ever stick to him. And, given our history with O.J. Simpson, it would seem that celebrity even helps you duck responsibility for that heinous act.

I left Barrow more than 10 years ago after living there for 27 years. Many of those years were spent dealing with the effects of substance abuse and domestic violence on the culture, the community, families and children. It has taken that full 10 years for me to finally be able to walk into a liquor store and buy something without feeling as though I'm doing something wrong. It has taken this long for me to be able to once again realize there is a whole world of people who can drink socially without getting drunk or violent. It has taken this long for me not to start getting nervous when drinks are served at someone's house.

That's how strongly I've been affected by the abuse I've seen. And I'm not alone. Anyone who has lived with substance abuse or dealt with its aftermath knows just how terribly destructive it is to our families and the very fabric of our society. Yet Charlie Sheen becomes a national icon for his drug-fueled domestic violence.

And for reasons I don't think I will ever comprehend, people line up to buy tickets to hear this loser tell you how, despite the trail of destruction he leaves in his wake, he is somehow a winner.

C'mon America. We're better than this. We have to be.


Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," a memoir of her years in Barrow. Website, www.elisepatkotak.com.

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