The Sins of the Mother: Dr. Laura and Son


Drlaura_schlessingerYou might think I’d be joining in the “Ha ha” brigade.

As you may have heard, Deryk Schlessinger — son of notorious homophobe/ sex-phobe/ right-wing relationship and sex advisor Dr. Laura Schlessinger — is under investigation by the Army (he’s a soldier in Afghanistan) for creating a MySpace page with some unbelievably disturbing and fucked-up shit on it. Among other things, the page (now removed) included cartoon depictions of rape, murder, torture and child molestation; a photograph of a bound and blindfolded detainee captioned “My Sweet Little Habib”; racial epithets; and a comment that “godless crazy people like me” have become “a generation of apathetic killers.”

Deryk_schlessinger(Read the whole story. It really is quite unsettling — this guy is clearly profoundly disturbed. The scariest part for me: “I LOVE MY JOB, it takes everything reckless and deviant and heathenistic and just overall bad about me and hyper focuses these traits into my job of running around this horrid place doing nasty things to people that deserve it… and some that don’t.”)

Nelson_hahaAnd much of the blogging that I’ve seen about this has been pretty gleeful, along the lines of “poetic justice” and “the bitch got what she deserved.” I’ve seen comments like, “What goes around, comes around”; “Good job, Mama Laura!”; “Karma has a hilarious tendency to bite us all in the ass”; and “Can’t wait for the next revelation.”

Ted_haggardNow, usually I’m up for a good round of Schadenfreude. I’m perfectly happy to cackle with glee over the downfall or public humiliation of right-wing, homophobic, sex-phobic hypocrites. Especially with folks like Mark Foley and Ted Haggard, where the punishment so perfectly fit the crime.

But not this time.

This time, I’m just sick and sad.

Here’s why.

SinsofthefathersFirst: When hateful fucked-up parents raise deeply disturbed children — that’s not poetic justice. That’s tragedy. Even when the fucked-up parent has made a career out of self-righteously scolding other parents and giving them appalling advice on how to raise their kids. I can see why it’s tempting… but really, what kind of karma or comeuppance is it to have parents “punished” with disturbed, sociopathic children? Do we on the left really want to be engaging in that kind of Old Testament, “sins of the fathers” thinking? Do we really want to be looking at messed-up kids as the just deserts that evil hateful parents deserve?

Dr_laura_nudeWhen bad things happen with the hateful hypocrites themselves, I’ll happily have a laff riot. (The Dr. Laura nude photos, I was perfectly willing to cackle over.) When bad things happen with their kids… not so much. It may be reasonable to point out the hypocrisy of smugly preaching about family values when your own family is so completely fucked up. But the gleeful tone of some of these blogs is, in my opinion, wildly inappropriate.

Second, and maybe even more importantly:

It’s not as if liberal families don’t ever have disturbed kids.

AlcoholismLiberal, gay-positive parents can be distant, controlling, abusive, alcoholic, generally crazy, and any number of other things that can seriously fuck up their kids. And for that matter, totally healthy families can end up with disturbed kids. (It’s not nearly as likely, but it does happen.)

Hate_is_not_a_family_valueI agree with the T-shirts and picket signs that hate is not a family value. But neither is directing your contempt for hateful homophobes in the direction of their fucked-up children. Let’s please not act as if violently disturbed kids are somehow the natural result of right-wing parents… and please, please, let’s not be so joyful about it.

Comments

  1. Eclectic says

    I understand “don’t go overboard”, but I just can’t resist playing devil’s advocate.
    >> What kind of karma or comeuppance is it to have parents “punished” with disturbed, sociopathic children? <<
    In general, that's just nasty. It's a lousy "punishment" that mostly falls on the children, and then on everyone they meet. When I wish horrible diseases on someone, I wish non-contagious ones.
    But it makes a big difference when the parent makes a high-profile career out of telling people how to run their lives and their families.
    In that case, I can say "hey, you claim to know this stuff. Is this where following your advice leads?"
    It's complicated by the tragedy of the children themselves, but when someone offers me advice on how to raise children, it only seems fair to judge them on how their own turned out!
    And in this case, the question of Laura's parenting skills is, I think, sufficient to justify some intrusion into her son's affairs. Especially since the latter are already public and newsworthy.
    If, say, Ben Bernanke (current chairman of the Federal Reserve, an arbitrary important public figure who doesn't preach about "family values") had a child with similar troubles, it would only be worth a brief note. The only legitimate public question would be whether the issue would distract him from his job.

  2. Rebecca says

    I haven’t read about this anywhere else, but a couple things instantly come to mind.
    1. Is anyone blogging about the cruelty and torture this guy has likely been perpetrating in a country in which US servicemen and women have life or death power over civilians? I’m not saying that he is typical of our military — I’m actually pretty sure he’s not — only that it is beyond appalling that this guy is allowed to carry a gun, much less represent us in a foreign country.
    2. Um…gays can’t serve openly in the military, but this guy passed a psych evaluation? Huh?

  3. says

    “And in this case, the question of Laura’s parenting skills is, I think, sufficient to justify some intrusion into her son’s affairs. Especially since the latter are already public and newsworthy.”
    I don’t disagree. I’m not saying that nobody should comment on Dr. Laura’s hypocrisy, and how appalling it is for her to be to be so smugly, self-righteously — and very publicly — judgmental of other people’s families, when her own is so messed up.
    I’m just saying that the gleeful, Schadenfreude, “ha ha” tone is really inappropriate in this case. And I’m one who adores a good round of gleeful Schadenfreude.
    And Rebecca: Yes, I have seen some blogging about how scary it is that this guy’s in the military. (We’ll see if he’s in it for long after this – you can be a crazy cruel sociopath in the Army, but you bloody well can’t post about it on MySpace!) Not as much as the “Ha ha Dr. Laura!” stuff, though. Although admittedly the latter is what was jumping out at me.

  4. Patch says

    This for this post. I feel extremely bad and sad for anybody with the arbitrary misfortunte of having been born as a child of Laura Schlessinger, or a child or grandchild or Fred Phelps (see the recent BBC documentary), or in the Dobson or Falwell family, etc. You WILL be hurt and warped by that experience. It is zero surprise that they turn out severely messed up, and inclined to act out and hurt others. See Alice Miller’s description of “the vicious cycle of contempt” in her book The Drama of the Gifted Child.

  5. Patch says

    typo above: I meant to write: Thanks for this post. I appreciate your sensitivity and understanding.

  6. says

    First roughly 75% of pedophiles are men on helpless little girls.
    For the less intelligent among us, it’s not always the parents that cause functional problems in their children.
    Socialization in a world of violence and sexualization is the problem.
    Second. In the age of the internet there is a propensity to attack based on the name used on a website that can be established in anonymity.
    Do we know that it is his? No. Just like that Principal whose students established two myspace accounts in order to accuse him WRONGLY – as it has been proven of all manner of alleged, but fraudulent, indiscretions.
    Liberals should be standing with us conservatives proudly, if not disappointedly, waiting to find out if it was in fact true.
    I know it won’t happen among those that are more concerned with destroying the reputations of those they oppose.
    I don’t expect a fair hearing in a comment stream, but I do expect a sense of decency…
    This guy is merely accused of having a website that any person – with a brain knows – can establish without having to show identity or any verifiable means, so demonstrate the website was established by the actual person…
    Should we all just give up and let the liberal/conservative/religious extremists do what they want now?
    By the democracy of the comments…. anyone have a cave in Idaho I can crash in?

  7. Rebecca says

    Jeff:
    1. I’d be quite interested in knowing any evidence one way or another that the MySpace is or isn’t the work of Dr. Laura’s son. It is certainly true that there are cases of people posing as others online. But I haven’t seen anything suggesting that the man himself has denied that it is his site. (And the Pentagon’s claim that it is the work of terrorists is so silly that it isn’t even worth getting offended over.)
    2. If you don’t expect a fair hearing here, you obviously haven’t been reading this blog.
    3. “By the democracy of the comments…. anyone have a cave in Idaho I can crash in?”
    What? Huh? What?

  8. says

    Jeff:
    1: Yes, it’s possible that the Deryk Schlessinger MySpace page was created by someone else to embarass him and/or his mother. That’s a fair point. But here’s this from the Salt Lake Tribune (via Virtualpolitik):
    However, the newspaper followed its own clues that indicate that Schlessinger is the likely author: “The Deryk Schlessinger page included nearly a dozen ‘friends,’ including a number of soldiers in Afghanistan, several of whom were linked back to Schlessinger’s page and some of whom had additional photos of, and comments from, Schlessinger on their sites.”
    That’s not absolute proof that Deryk created the page, of course; but it is fairly compelling evidence.
    2: Yes, I understand and agree that parents aren’t always the cause of their children’s troubles (although they often are). I think if you’ll re-read my post, you’ll find that I made that exact point myself. It was fairly central to my main point, in fact, which I fear you may have missed: namely, that the gleeful, “poetic justice,” “sins of the mother” tone of much of what I’ve read about this case is both inappropriate and unfair.
    3. Re your point about pedophiles: I’m puzzled. What exactly does that have to do with this? If you’re trying to show that parents and families are often not to blame for their troubled children, you may want to use another statistic, since very often child molesters *are* the parents or other family members.
    Finally: If you’ll read this blog, you’ll find that the commenters in it do, in fact, try to be both fair and civil. I encourage (and participate in) debate that’s lively and yet at the same time respectful, and while I’m fine with a certain degree of snark, I expect people debating here to criticize ideas and arguments — not insult people. If you’re going to continue to comment in this blog, I’d like to ask you to please do the same. Thanks.

  9. says

    You know I’ve had this theory going for quite sometime. (*Please be advised re gratuitous use of the word ‘theory’ and make a mental note that this is just my take).
    While I do believe that many right-wing, ultra-conservative zealots of Churchianity actually believe in some of the ludicrous ideas they spew forth into the world, I’ve been incubating this thought that alot of what’s going merely reflects the frontlines of a deeply rooted religio-cultural war.
    I think many of these neo-con pseudo-Christians are what the Bible would aptly describe “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” From GW to Haggard to Rush Limbaugh to Rove to Dr. Laura on and on down the list, I do not find a lick of Christ-like character (excuse me here, not to sound judgmental, but these are my observations, which of course are based only on a very narrow window of observance).
    Do said individuals actually take themselves and their twisted slants on religion seriously? That’s beyond the scope of my knowledge. But I do know the Bible states that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”
    See, the sad thing is, rational, intelligent people see all this neo-con pseudo-faith clearly for what it is – hypocrisy, insanity and downright hatred. And of course the media is quick to air the opinions of these quacks and in doing so, they create a sort of status-quo about people of faith in general: “Man, those priests molest kids…our ‘Christian’ president is killing untold tens of thousands in Iraq’ or ‘Minister so-and-so got caught on MSNBC’s To Catch A Predator.'”
    Then, voila! The national consensus becomes, “Gee, belief surely is a screwed up proposition – look at all these nuts.”
    Culture wars indeed. If God and Satan are in fact real, and they are in fact enemies, I could think of no better strategy for Satan to implement than to popularize neo-con pseudo-religionists to bring discredit to the true believers, those who walk in compassion, kindness and love.

  10. says

    “Dr.” Laura is a judgemental, homophobic, intolerant, public scold. My understanding of the law of karma is, you get back what you put out in the universe. It’s hard work raising a child to be a decent human being, a task that Laura has publicly failed at. I’m horrified that the army accepted the little worm into its ranks and gave him a gun and power over helpless civilians. But I’m not surprised that he is a worm. And while some fine people have raised some rotten kids, in general I agree with Freud that a child who has its mother’s unconditional love cannot but succeed (barring serious mental illness). This kid is not mentally ill, just overindulged. At the age of 20, he had his own apartment with a gold-plated 5-ft high hookah?

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