The latest media circus, the Mel Gibson arrest, has the potential to stay under the big top as a side show for a while. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Gibson was arrested for DUI. He was pulled-over for speeding down a west coast freeway after an evening of partying. Gibson inquired as to the ethnic identity of the arresting officer, only to go on an anti-Semitic tirade after the initial contact.
Gibson offered an unusually sincere sounding apology in the wake of the incident.
So what do we say about all this?
Of course it is easy to dismiss this all as a drunken indiscretion, but Gibson has too much baggage to get an "excuse me' pass like that. People will dispute as to whether alcohol merely breaks down inhibitions and magnifies what is really lurking inside, or whether it distorts Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde. Gibson has the former theory attributed to his behavior, and it's hard to genuinely grant him the benefit of the doubt otherwise.
Here we see the application of the old moral anecdote: if someone steps on your foot and says that they are sorry; are they sorry for what they did, or only sorry they were caught? Gibson's actions show that he has a character problem that goes deeper than his difficulties with alcohol. There is no point making any excuses for Mel, we have no choice but to wait and see if the stench of this skunk spray eventually wears off. Gibson has issued an apology, as well as a stark admission that he has a problem that needs treatment, and a attitude problem that requires forgiveness. All this is true.
Gibson was not merely stupid, he was morally wrong. Stupidity is something reserved for those who have <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Hollywood's sympathy, not its ire. That's not to say that Gibson's only sin is siding ideologically toward the politically conservative end of the spectrum for a movie star, but it is an explanation for why he was almost instantaneously blacklisted.
This is not merely a setback for Gibson (if it indeed turns out to be a setback), it is a moment of turbulence in the conservative movement. Gibson's conduct gives momentary credibility to the false charges made about his blockbuster movie "The Passion of the Christ," and provides a fresh round of ammunitions to those who are the "Chicken Littles," inordinately worried about the "bigoted" views of the Christian right. And the irony is that some of this stereotypical smear will stick, even though many Christian evangelicals are staunch supporters of Israel.
I can't help rooting for Gibson to emerge victoriously redeemed from this abyss of shame and bad publicity. I love Gibson. I love his movies like The Patriot and Braveheart, regardless of any supposed departures from pure historicity depicted by those films. I applaud his audacity, independence and conviction in forging ahead with "The passion." He aroused the conscience of a nation.
But, as a conservative, I must acknowledge when one of our own does wrong. It does no good to plead the excuse that there is a double standard applied harshly to non-liberals. That only masks what has happened. We will always be held to a higher standard, and we ought to be held to such for our own good.
Gibson has promised to reach out to the Jewish community. If both sides keep their end of the bargain in this promised attempt at reconciliation, then this season of adversity will have sprouted a crop of greater mutual understanding and benefit.
When heroes fall down, the wicked stand tall. Those of ill will feel good better about there own character flaws. They can point the finger at the fallen, without the concern that three are pointing back.
Robert E. Meyer
Worldview Weekend Foundation
PO BOX 1690
Collierville, TN, 38027 USA