I can only imagine what it’s like living in a glass house. Actually, I’ve lived in a couple very small towns in a variety of states, so maybe I can do more than imagine. It doesn’t matter if its in the Midwest, the bayou, the mountains, or wherever; small town life has more similarities to the life of the famous than you would expect.
Everybody has to know your business. Although that is lovely as children, the moment we hit puberty, so much knowledge becomes an obstacle to the things you really want to do. At some point in our lives, we all want to cross the boundaries imposed upon us by our upbringing. For some people, these boundaries are ridiculously stringent, while for others we see them as way to open to begin with. When we judge those living in a glass house, we tend to do so by our personal standards, instead of considering the environment within.
When a young person enters the charade of fame, I also watch with trepidation. I do not expect child stars to all grow up to be addicts, if they even grow up at all. I do expect them to live out the normal lessons of life in full view of the public, as well as their own special variations caused by their chosen profession (or the press interaction decided upon by their parents). There will be horrible moments, and behaviors or words I do not like. There will be joyous moments too private to share, that are just as likely to be made public. They are not perfect. The media is not perfect in its representations of the individuals. Then again, I am not perfect either.
In those moments when I catch a headline or a conversation about some grown up child star headed to jail, I have to feel slightly sorry for them. Not because I think they should be privileged and pay a fine instead of going to jail, just that their every mistake is so publicized. Then again, they are now adults, and even if someone else encouraged their career choice in the past, they are in charge of their choices now. I expect everyone to make mistakes as they develop, but I also expect them to face the consequences.
Once again, Lindsay Lohan is in the news for her behavior. Although it seems like it, I doubt she is actually competing with Paris Hilton for number of days in jail. This morning I noticed she just paid a $300,000 bail. Just the other day I saw Hilton was denied entry into Japan because of her conviction. These headlines have me considering some solutions to a few of the current problems the United States is facing.
The financial difficulties our nation faces is no secret. Nor is the fact that,those with money receive privileges, although to varying degrees based on the moment’s circumstances. We also have nurtured a culture where certain types of people are expected to behave inappropriately. The over-coverage by the media of such behavior, and the response to that coverage by such characters as Dennis Rodman is only one obvious example.
The point of careers such as professional sports players, movie or TV stars, pop musicians, and politicians are to be famous. Without recognition, they cannot draw the money the require to live in their glass houses. The money they are paid is simply shameful, as well as completely unable to be backed by the government. (If you are unaware that there is not enough gold in the US to cover the paper money our government has printed, then you are lacking as a citizen.) This disproportionate income, as well as the privilege associated with such positions, can be used to the benefit of the nation.
Where do the fines and bails go when a star is arrested? Who sets the fines and fees? These are usually local considerations, dependent on the arresting body. In theory, these monies perpetuate the facilities and staff that keep the system in place. (Those within the system would say they also keep us safe, but that is an arguable point for another day.) Perhaps fines and fees could be better placed.
For example, Lohan paid $300,000 for failing her drug test and therefore violating the terms of her parole. Frankly, if she can stay out of the driver’s side, her drug consumption endangers no one directly except herself, so, instead of simply applying these funds to Los Angels County in general, they should be applied specifically to further the education of the county, hopefully preventing future Lohans from emerging.
This is just a beginning point. Different types of offenses can be applied to different needs. The publicly disruptive rock star’s fines can be applied to the sanitation department. DUI fines can be applied to road maintenance. A portion of all fines should be paid directly to the officers (police and court officers) retirement funds.
Naturally, a nation that prides itself on equality, cannot just penalize the rich and famous. As I mentioned before, no one is perfect, and first time mistakes happen so we can learn from them. It is the multiple offenders-rich and famous or not-who are the real problems; or rather the real solutions to some of our problems. Still, not all repeat offenders are rich and famous, so there should be alternatives, such as serious jail time heavily punctuated with public service.
In this age of information overload, every jurisdiction has the potential to be interconnected, which would allow fines to be accumulated based on over-all number of offenses, not just jurisdictionally. For example Ed and Vi take their ballroom performance on tour. They start at the biggest ballroom event, the Ohio Star Ball, which also takes place during the biggest college rivalry, the Ohio State Michigan game. They split their time between the sports bar and the dance floor, leading to missed steps and over exuberant reactions carried over from their football excitement. Their altercation become more than a shouting match, and they create a public disruption, tearing up the signs and lights in front t of the hotel and get themselves arrested. First time offense, standard fines apply.
Then they travel to an exhibition in New Orleans where they expected humid even in the fall, and they discover humidity becomes a deep chill that affects their dancing aches, and they become irritable and short tempered. In the crowded streets of the French Quarter, Ed steps on Vi’s sensitive feet and another destructive argument erupts. This time, even though they have only the one previous offense in Columbus, Ohio, the courts of New Orleans will double the previous fines. Each time they are arrested for this type of offense, the amount doubles from the previous fine.
This fictitious scenario shows not only how my proposal might work, but also the fact that, sometimes people are simply caught up in the situation around them, as opposed to just being “bad” people. We still have to pay the consequences of the situations we allow ourselves to be in, and this is just one way the rich and famous can serve, not only the financial good, but the moral good; face the consequences and move on.
Now maybe Ed and Vi have yet to reach the rich part of their fame, and they are simply passionate people who don’t express themselves well. They find themselves exploding in public situations, but cannot pay the exorbitant fines they have accumulated. The best alternative is public service instead of jail time. In jail, they are just another expense, but there are many jobs they can be given to help improve the community. The jurisdiction can require time equal to the fine in trash pick up, or cleaning staff offices and courtrooms. By equal time I mean one dollar equals one hour. Not the kind of hourly pay you’d expect? It shouldn’t be! The repeat offender is not learning, so the ineffectual punishment needs to be proportionately good for the community affected.
We all know, some people just will not learn. There are those who do not think the infringement is offensive enough to warrant punishment. That is the choice of the community, not the individual. Don’t like the rules of the community, then don’t visit it. (“Community” can be a town, state, country, etc.) If you choose to visit it knowing their values are different, as well as choosing to behave by your personal standards, be prepared to face the consequences.
We will not all agree on what is appropriate behavior, nor will we all be able to always comply with the rules and guidelines around us. Living together in a unified society doesn’t mean agreement, just mutual respect. If you can’t respect the rules, then you must respect the consequences or be gone. What we need to do is stop passing judgment on our neighbors in the glass houses, and instead decide how to manipulate these existing problems to resolve each other.