I have watched a vicious serious of media comments on the early release of Paris Hilton to home arrest — claiming that she has been given special treatment as a wealthy kid. In fact she, Martha Stewart, and Scooter Libby have been excessively punished by media-driven bad law. Each has received imprisonment for wrongs either committed by others close to them or in excess of normal punishment for the same wrong doing.
But let us turn to Paris Hilton. Most people who have not had direct experience with children of wealthy parents have no idea how so many of them have been mistreated. I have lived and worked in both worlds. One of my lingering nightmares is the experiences of the kids from West Harlem with which I worked as a intern five decades ago who aspired to be accepted by American society — but who mostly died early violent deaths when they were rejected.
However, the same is true of children of the super wealthy. Most of these kids have horrible experiences. They are raised by hired help who despise them in many instances and/or by parents who mistreat them in horrible ways with impunity due to their wealth.
My earliest memories were when I was a two-year-old in West Hartford, Connecticut — where the disappeared teen was just discovered in a secret hideaway under stairs — a bit weird for me as I had one in our house on Pleasant Street where I hid, played, and stored my toys!
We moved a bit further out into Farmington (noted for a prestigious girls prep) and a mix of new immigrants with the descendants of the original British settlers. Along the way when I seemed to be flunking out of the Noah Wallace School — I really was not, but was bored with all but shop training in wood working and such — my family transferred me to the Kingswood Day School in West Hartford (on scholarship) for the wealthy kids of Hartford environs. We were about 40 per class and I had to play catch up with scholarship pressures. I really did not have many friends there. Most of the kids were troubled one way or another. One blew his brains out. Two others suicided on the road down Avon mountain driving at estimated at speeds of 100 to 110 miles per hour.
I went off to other schools and colleges, but heard the dire reports to the effect that most of my classmates had self-destructed in one way or another. Their parents were the Bush type Protestants whose ancestors had made their monies previously in the slave trade and the Hartford insurance companies. The life patterns were horrendous for these types — serial marriages, occasional abuse of step daughters by fathers. I will never forget the wealthy neighbor who was in pursuit of young boys — I declined to wrestle with him. The mother was a drug addict long before we knew what that condition was. I will never forget one freezing winter day with a foot of snow on the ground when the school bus stopped at their home to pick up their 7-year-old — who came out of the door in short pants, a T-shirt, and sneakers. The bus driver took him to the school where I assume something was done for him. I saw him once about 10 or more years later at a restaurant at the local country club with his parents with whom he had become a stay-at-home destroyed one.
So, when we get to Paris Hilton and hear that she was on the verge of a breakdown after 5 days in jail — a sentence far longer than the standard for her offense — I cannot wonder what jealousy ranges in the hearts of those media harpies who do not know that the harms of growing up in the hands of great wealth are as dangerous as those in extreme poverty — and perhaps even worse?
“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)
Ed Kent 718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]