Wednesday, August 3, 2005

A mania for self-destruction

Commentary by Pat Murphy


Pat Murphy

Bewildered, pious Americans wonder what could possibly drive people to pack themselves with explosives and become suicide bombers.

While pondering irrational behavior of others, maybe they should also ask: What drives otherwise cultured Americans to choose their own forms of self-destruction, without lethal explosives, simply through utter recklessness, foolishness and stupidity?

In the news archives for July, I found stories reporting three young people killed while "car surfing"—thrown from speeding cars while lying spread-eagled for a thrill on the cars' roofs without safety restraints.

Other youngsters have tried another fad: choking themselves to stop breathing so they can reach a "high." Glue sniffing too tame?

Then there's the unchanging idiocy at college fraternities, where collective intelligence is always in doubt, continuing their mindless, often fatal, chug-a-lug alcohol poisoning of pledges.

Stupidity and bad judgment aren't confined to the young, however. Supposedly cultivated mature men and women in responsible positions are fully capable of destroying themselves.

Remember the parade of multi-millionaires in handcuffs being led off to prison as common thieves for robbing their company treasuries? They already had more money and luxury possessions than they could possibly use. Try explaining why they stole more.

Bill Clinton's dim-witted sexual dalliance with a young office intern has made him a perpetual punch line for sex jokes on late night TV, plus earning him one of the most bizarre first sentences in an American ex-president's obituary.

Actress Jane Fonda, now embarking on a cross-country anti-war protest, destroyed her integrity with millions of Americans years ago with a brainless 1972 trip to communist North Vietnam that Americans refuse to forget and that she admits was the biggest goof of her life. Duh?

Check the prisons for a real collection of self-destructive geniuses with an obsession for reckless self-abuse.

These people destroy lives other than their own with their deliberate anti-social behavior. In the rubble they leave children, spouses, reputations. In Enron-like corporate thievery, thousands of employees and their families who trusted employers are stripped of jobs and economic security and soured on corporate America.

True, terrorist bombers cut a bloodier swath by leaving bodies and maimed survivors as well as horrified families to ponder the senselessness.

Yet, those who wreck their lives through pointless incivility and criminal mischief can be just as costly to social order.

It's a thin line indeed that separates the insanity of Middle Eastern terrorists and inane Americans whose mania for personal self-destruction is a shameful national disgrace spreading like an epidemic.

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