Mel Gibson “Social Disease”

By David Schussler

 

How many Mel Gibsons are there in the world? Mel Gibson is not just an actor but is a man indicative of a social disease. There is surely only one Mel Gibson in the world but what made him spew his drunken vitriol is a common problem. The publicity over his ordeal is only bringing the problem to the surface. Gibson’s public appeal and celebrity has, first of all, allowed him on previous occasions to elude justice. A justice that you and I (the common people) would have been incarcerated and criminalized for. A justice that had it been timely might have prevented him from continuing his abuse of alcohol and bringing him to this point in his life.

Gibson’s bigotry however is not a result of his alcoholism. It is a sad result of his upbringing and education. A problem we all suffer from in some form. Every one of us has been brought up to believe in certain values. We have been brought up to believe that some cultures or races are different than we are and in order to maintain our values we must discriminate and choose what we want to believe and whom we want to believe in. We tend to clump people into beliefs and values and assume that all people of a certain group act and think alike. Some of this is true, but just because it is different doesn’t mean it must be excluded or disliked on the basis of what someone has told us. Discrimination is not a bad thing. It is a good thing because it allows us parameters to live by and requires thought. We all do well to choose our friends, business partners, schools, spouses, etc. with some discrimination. We want those people who are good for us to be around us as we travel on life’s path.

As we grow up and form our characters we are subject to the family mesmerization, bigotry, and values of our parents, siblings, preachers, coaches, teachers, and heroes. This is what forms our characters. If what we learned was, in fact, bigoted, laced with racial discrimination and hatred, then the chances are we retain some of that in our personalities. Even if we intellectually break through this subconscious implantation, it remains in our personalities. Even if we go to church every Sunday, smile a lot, and give lip service to it, it doesn’t mean that we have even synthesized the acceptance of true brotherhood. The underlying fear and hatred often waits below the surface. The truths will out. Whether under the influence of alcohol and drugs, or under life’s pressures it will out, but is it the truth? It is the truth as we have learned and internalized it but not necessarily the factual truth or even the perceived truth.

I am a white, European Jew born in New York City. I was raised in the fifties on a farm in upstate New York in a non-Jewish, Methodist and Lutheran small town. I was a “Kike” in a community of people most of whose ancestors were Indians or came over on the Mayflower. The few other outsiders in town were, the “Wop” family, the “Mik” family, and the “Kraut” family. I learned about prejudices early in life. I learned about the cruelty of my schoolmates. As a kid I learned how to fight to achieve respect in school as my mates learned to accept me for who I was. Before my family arrived in town those children already had terrible, negative images of the Jews that they had learned from their parents and world war II. This was the 1950’s when the German immigrants still hated the Irish and the country was still segregated. By the time I left that town I left a legacy, for a few at least, of understanding that Jews too put their pants on one leg at a time. I too had learned a lot about intolerance, bigotry, and acceptance. These were still times when blacks and whites did not even share the same facilities in this country. I went to a high school that was in a city that was only about two thirds white and learned to play sports with all races in shared school facilities. Sharing victories and defeats together and sharing goals and dreams together became my new way of life. Spending time at my friend’s homes helped me to learn about different races, cultures, economic situations, and social morays. Playing football meant that we all mingled sweat, blood, and tears together and when my best friend and teammate Woody who was black died of lymphatic cancer I cried a lot and missed him dearly. It made me understand the equality of life and the inequality and unfairness of society.

I have eight children who are all black, brown, and white and share three national residencies. During these years I have resided in communities that were all black and all Hispanic where at times I could not even speak the languages. Although I was brought up with bigotry, racist views, and strong biases, I went through a life process that has helped me to understand and love other cultures, but am I racist? When I see a group of baggy pant black gang bangers standing on a corner being rude do I seek another route? If I was invited to a Muslim church today to experience a service, would I go? Do I go to biker bars? Do I stay away from gay neighborhoods? Do I laugh at “Jew” jokes?, “N****r” jokes?, “Aggie” jokes?, “Oakie” jokes?, “Wetback” jokes?

Most importantly do I stand up for people who are oppressed when the chips are down? Do I speak up when someone is being wronged? Do I step up to protect the freedom, well being, or respect of another who is being attacked in this world physically or otherwise?

These are the questions that we all should be asking ourselves. Our choices should be governed by common sense and intuition not by preconceived ideologies learned from misguided mentors. Our actions should be made without the blur of intoxication. Actions speak louder than words and anyone can and should be judged by their actions. Mel Gibson will. Ultimately we all will.

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