celebrities, musings

Why do we love to see people rot?

I was just sitting here thinking about what I wanted to write about today. I was looking through old posts I’ve done and toyed with the idea of visiting an old chestnut or two, themes that never wear out or get old. I could write about a pressing personal issue this morning… but I’ve learned my lesson about sharing too much of myself prematurely.

Then I remembered a snarky article I happened to read the other day about Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Gianulli. I had wanted to write about it when I first read it, but then something else came up that was more pressing and it slipped my mind. But now I need a topic, so here’s another article about Lori and Mossimo. It’s one of so many circulating right now… but it may be a little different than those other articles.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Lori and Mossimo are going to be incarcerated soon. Lori will spend two months at a medium security lockup in Victorville, California. Mossimo will likely do five months at a minimum security joint in Santa Barbara. Although the facilities where they will be incarcerated are described as kind of cushy, they’re still lockups. The experience will certainly suck, even if Lori Loughlin’s prison offers courses in calligraphy and pilates. No, she’s not going to be doing hard time, but her crime doesn’t really warrant doing hard time, does it?

For some reason, a lot of people in the United States have the idea that locking people up for as long as possible is the best thing to do when they’ve misbehaved. I’ve read a lot of comments by people who are dismayed when someone gets let of out of jail early. So many people love to parrot that old line, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” They are just fine with people being incarcerated endlessly. They don’t seem to care much about what happens to them after they’ve been locked up for awhile.

The article I read that prompted today’s post was heavy on sarcasm. I’ll grant that it was kind of a funny post. Even more than the original article, I was affected by a comment someone left pointing out the hypocrisy of readers who were jeering at Lori’s cushy jailhouse digs. The person pointed out that regular readers of that publication tended to be left leaning folks who were in favor of prison reform. And yet, there they were, laughing at the idea that someone might have access to classes and activities that promote physical, spiritual, and mental well-being.

Good points here.

And another comment:

I do wonder what people actually want in this situation. Do they want her to be tortured and put into squalid conditions? I’ve noticed there’s this weird sort of thing in this country where we want to lower the bar rather than raise it. So if a bunch of people are treated like shit, and some are treated better, the solution is then not to treat everyone better, but instead treat everyone equally bad. It’s like if you find out your co-worker makes more than you, and instead of wanting to make the same amount as him, you’d rather see his paycheck go down to match yours. Then everybody loses!

I get it, though. Some people pointed out that if Lori weren’t so rich and famous, she wouldn’t be going to a place that is so “cushy”. But… does that mean that everyone in that jail is rich and famous? Surely, there are people incarcerated there who aren’t worth millions and don’t have a pretty face. Moreover, there have been famous people from wealthy families who have gone to “real” prisons . Cameron Douglas, son of movie star Michael Douglas, did “hard time”. So has Redmond O’Neal, son of movie star Farrah Fawcett.

So people are pissed off that Lori Loughlin, who is not a violent criminal and is highly unlikely to ever repeat her crime, is going to do two months in a prison where she can practice yoga and learn new skills. I wonder if any of these folks, having been caught breaking the law (which pretty much everyone does at least once in a lifetime), would want to be sent to a shit hole where they are regularly threatened, beaten up, and fed slop. Would they want that for a friend or a loved one? If there’s a chance that a person will emerge from a corrections facility, isn’t it better that the person comes out with coping skills, good mental and physical health, and a positive self-image? Is it really better to simply focus only on punishment, rather than teaching a person the error of their ways and why they shouldn’t have done what they did? Shouldn’t we also have some regard for them as human beings?

It seems to me that instead of being pissed off that Lori and Mossimo are getting off lightly, we should be pissed off that people with fewer resources end up in worse conditions than they should. We should be angry that people get wrongly accused of crimes and wind up locked up in hellholes for years. We should be pissed off that a man who does 22 years in a California prison and comes out a better person– having actually risked his life to fight wild fires while still incarcerated– gets rounded up by ICE and sent to another lockup, destined to be deported to a country he hasn’t seen since he was two years old and doesn’t recognize him as a citizen.

Granted, no one really needs to know how to write in calligraphy. No one needs to do yoga or pilates. But these are activities that are basically healthy and wholesome and may be a better outlet for incarcerated people than hanging out with other criminals and learning how to make shivs. Moreover, not all criminals are created equally. Non-violent people should not be locked down in cells and forced to dig ditches with murderers and rapists. People who can be rehabilitated should be rehabilitated and given a chance.

Lori Loughlin doesn’t need all of the activities her prison will offer. But she is not representative of all of the people in that facility. Other people who are locked up there might not have those opportunities on the outside. Maybe a course in calligraphy is all someone needs to find a new path. I don’t think incarceration always has to be about punishment and being in hell. It should mostly be about correcting bad behavior and learning better skills. Yes, there are people out there who can’t be rehabilitated. Yes, there are dangerous people who are mad at the world and would never benefit from learning how to crochet or make origami. But I think there are fewer of them than regular folks who have made mistakes.

I don’t cheer for locking people up. I think prisons should be reserved for people who are violent or otherwise extremely dangerous. Prisons cost society a lot– taxpayer dollars as well as the lives ruined by prison records that make it impossible for some people to ever recover. And, as we discovered last week in the story about the women who had hysterectomies against their wills, there are for profit corporations that are committing real crimes against detainees.

Prisoners are people, and they have basic human rights. Lori Loughlin is rich, beautiful, wealthy, and lucky beyond most people’s wildest dreams, but that doesn’t mean she needs to be rotting in a jail cell. No one should be “rotting” away in jail. That’s not an acceptable standard for human beings.

So, I hope Lori and Mossimo do their time, learn something from it, and come back whole to their families. I strongly suspect they won’t reoffend, and especially if they do learn a new skill like “cartoon drawing”, the experience will make them better people. I suspect that most of the people bitching about the “light sentence” would not want to trade places with them, nor would they be sad if they were sentenced to a similarly “cushy” lockup. It’s still prison, people, and it is going to suck. It will be humiliating, degrading, shameful, and unpleasant. But I feel very sure that they’ve learned their lessons, and that is all that really matters.

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book reviews

A review of Long Way Home, by Cameron Douglas

I’m not sure what prompted me to read Long Way Home (2019), written by Cameron Douglas, son of Michael Douglas and grandson of Kirk Douglas. I think it’s because I read an article or maybe even a book by someone who met him when he was a child and thought he was a nice kid. Nice kids, unfortunately, go off the rails sometimes, particularly when they grow up too privileged and lack discipline. That’s what happened to Cameron Douglas, who has spent a significant part of his life behind bars.

I grew up watching Cameron’s dad, Michael Douglas, in movies like Romancing the Stone, The War of the Roses, and Fatal Attraction. I always liked Michael Douglas. I especially liked him in Romancing the Stone, though the sequel to that film, The Jewel of the Nile, sucked donkey balls. It’s hard to believe that a movie star like Michael Douglas, who is also the son of the late movie star, Kirk Douglas, could produce a son who would get in so much trouble with the law. But Cameron, who is also the son of Diandra Luker, chose a different, destructive path. Now aged 41, he seems to have turned over a new leaf with his partner, Viviane Thibes, and their daughter, Lua Izzy Douglas, who was born December 17, 2017.

What the hell happened?

Cameron Douglas seems like he should have had an easy life, but by the time he was thirty years old, he was a drug addict, a thief, and in deep trouble with the law. When everything came crashing down in Douglas’s life, he was sentenced to five years in prison. Five more years were also added to his sentence due to incidents that occurred while he was in prison.

There were signs Cameron was going to be in trouble long before he wound up in federal lockups around the country. When he was growing up, he went to private schools, a couple of which were known for dealing with disciplinary cases. He mentions Provo Canyon School, which was recently in the news because Paris Hilton was sent there when she was a teen. Hilton said that the school was “torture” for her and Cameron Douglas also mentions that it’s a place where kids don’t want to be sent. He went there in handcuffs as a teenager, encountered the mostly Mormon staff, and ended up having an affair with a staffer named Cynthia who had initially invited him to play chess.

From there, Cameron’s life only got more complicated. His stints in rehab and arrests became more and more serious until he was finally busted for dealing drugs in 2010. At one point, he was even the subject of an intervention by famous interventionist Candy Finnegan, who is well-known for being on the show, Intervention, on the A&E network.

Through it all, Douglas describes how his family reacted. Michael Douglas seemed to want to help his son, although sometimes he did so in bumbling ways. For instance, Cameron had a dog named Junior that he shared with his then girlfriend, Erinn, who apparently shared his drug problems. Cameron’s dog was bred with a female dog Michael owned. Michael tried to keep Cameron’s dog, claiming that Cameron was too messed up to care for the dog properly. Naturally, that pissed off the younger Douglas. Junior, whom Cameron loved very much, eventually died of cancer. Cameron broke up with Erinn, in part, because she hadn’t properly taken care of his dog by getting him to a vet before the cancer got too bad.

Michael Douglas also tried tough love, interventions, “kidnapping” his son and taking him to rehabs… none of it worked. Finally, he sort of withdrew, after divorcing Cameron’s mother, who had caught him cheating. He married Catherine Zeta-Jones and had two more children, Dylan and Carys, while his eldest son, Cameron, was incarcerated.

Cameron’s mother, Diandra Luker, is described as sort of a free spirit who grew up in Mallorca, Spain. She married Michael Douglas when she was just nineteen, having only known him for six weeks, and they stayed married for seventeen years. Throughout their marriage, Michael abused alcohol and had “flings”, including with his former co-star, Kathleen Turner. I got the sense that Diandra is a bit flighty, although she had Cameron when she was very young and they sort of “grew up together”. Basically, it sounds like Cameron’s parents were focused on a lot of other things, rather than raising their son properly. But it’s hard to judge them, given the lifestyle they had. Maybe it would have been noble for Michael Douglas to stop acting in movies and take care of his son, but it probably would not have been realistic.

My thoughts

Much of Long Way Home, written historical present tense, is about Cameron’s time behind bars. He admits that he’s intrigued by prison culture and attracted to it. Prior to his time in prison, Cameron kind of played around at acting without much success. He tried to be a D.J., too, but he often messed up those opportunities by abusing drugs and blowing his professional obligations.

I didn’t really like Cameron’s use of historical present tense, although the book is pretty well-written. I don’t know why that style was so irritating to me. It’s the way I used to write papers about books I read when I was an English major. Maybe that’s why I didn’t like it.

I was kind of impressed by Cameron’s comments about his parents and grandparents. I was especially impressed by what he has to say about his dad, who really does seem to care a lot about Cameron, as well as Kirk Douglas, who was proud of Cameron, even though he’d done seven years in prison. Cameron had a tattoo made of himself, Michael, and Kirk. Michael was reportedly uncomfortable with it, but Kirk, who died a few months ago at age 103, reportedly thought it was very cool.

Cameron Douglas has apparently changed his way of living. He got out of prison and is now working to better his life. The change seems to have occurred when he was in prison and he realized what a waste of time it is. He started keeping more to himself or hanging out with people who didn’t want to go back to prison. He started to meditate, quit drinking prison booze, stopped using heroin, and began reading excellent books by renowned writers. It was as if he learned to use his time wisely as a man in his 30s instead of in grade school, when most people learn.

Overall…

I mostly liked this book. I think Cameron Douglas is very honest about his struggles and I never got the sense that he doesn’t realize how very privileged he is. He admits that he has advantages the most people will never have, and getting out of prison and integrating into a more law abiding lifestyle is easier for him than it is for most people who are incarcerated. He includes some photos, too, which were interesting.

Although I know that he has a lot more help than most people do, I’m glad that he’s trying to change his ways. It would have been better if he had shown more respect for his privileges when he was much younger. A lot of people will judge him because of all he has. Personally, I find it hard to judge him. I don’t know what it’s like to be him, or what it was like to grow up with a father who is a movie star. It may seem like that would be awesome, but the reality of that lifestyle may be that it’s empty and fake. Money can’t buy happiness, and the more money a person has, the more likely it is that he or she will be surrounded by people who aren’t “real”.

I think some people failed Cameron when he was growing up, although I find it hard to judge them, too. They were caught up in the chaos of fame and money. Ultimately, it’s sad, because so many “normal” people look at the wealthy and envy them. But they have problems, too… and that kind of an empty existence can make the escape to drug use attractive, particularly for someone who lacks discipline and strong role models. I commend Cameron Douglas for waking up and changing his life, even if he wasted years in prison. On the other hand, maybe the time wasn’t really wasted if he learned something and straightened himself out. I’m glad to read that his parents and stepparents didn’t abandon him. Catherine Zeta-Jones, in particular, seems to have been pretty decent to Cameron, even though he was incarcerated. His family did visit him while he was in prison, including his much younger half-siblings.

I’m not one of those people who thinks people who get in trouble should automatically be thrown away. I think most people have some redeeming qualities and deserve a chance to change their behavior. I have noticed a lot of people think Cameron’s book is “self-serving” and “whining”. Frankly, I’m not sure why those people would read this book in the first place. They don’t seem to have any empathy for people who screw up– (and everyone does, to some extent). As long as he’s done dealing drugs and committed to raising his daughter, I don’t begrudge Cameron Douglas for sharing his story. Maybe someone will learn from it or relate to it.

I would recommend Long Way Home, but only to those who aren’t going to dismiss Cameron Douglas out of hand for being born to “Hollywood Royalty”. He can’t help that. And yes, he should have spent his time as a youth more wisely, but again– as long as he’s learned from his mistakes, it’s all good, as far as I’m concerned.

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