If You Have no Compassion for Charlie Sheen, Find Some for his Parents
I am dying inside for Charlie Sheen’s parents while they watch their son melt down into a roiling blob of incoherent protoplasm. This is horrific for any parent, but Charlie’s are watching their child’s life go to hell along with millions upon millions of onlookers, many of whom are enjoying their periodic dose of schadenfreude, a perverse delight some people take in watching others, usually the rich and famous, fall from grace. I am appalled.
Mr. Sheen is a very ill man craving, and most likely relishing, the attention he is receiving from nationwide media outlets. How is that coverage helping him? It is, instead, fueling the fire. I stumbled upon an article in The Atlantic this morning called How to Take Care of and Feed Your Charlie Sheen, a shameless spoof written as if Mr. Sheen were a pet. I use this as a random example of the ubiquitous and mean-spirited press coverage. Citing any other vicious diatribes would make me guilty of the very acts I am railing against.
Speculation is rampant about whether or not there is a moral turpitude clause in Sheen’s contract with CBS that would justify their termination of his show. This is for the lawyers to discern. Drugs, pornography, inflammatory language, prostitution…none of these things speak highly of Sheen’s moral character. But where is the morality in devoting hours and hours of air time and print space to the carryings-on of a mentally ill person? There may not be a legal argument to be made against this nonstop Sheen-fest, but there is certainly a moral one.
When Michael J. Fox came out to the public regarding his Parkinson’s disease, he was practically deified. Everyone loves Michael J. Fox, including me. But his disease, at least in the early and mid stages, manifests itself physically. The cluster of Parkinson’s symptoms includes body tremors and impaired speech. Among Sheen’s symptoms are self-aggrandizement, erratic thought processes, and impaired judgment. He is no less ill than Fox, but his symptoms make for more colorful television. Plus, he’s had a bad-boy reputation for years, but his antics may have simply been a precursor to what we are seeing now. Fox, being mentally sound, is able to make rational decisions regarding when and if he wants to appear publicly. Sheen’s mind is his weakness. His illness renders him incapable of making such decisions. No compassionate person should exploit that. This does not mean that Sheen shouldn’t be held accountable for his actions. His history of domestic violence is despicable and I regret that any charges were dropped. The court’s decision to remove his children from the home was sound. But why have I been unable to avoid his insane ravings when I turn on the news to see what’s happening in Libya or find out if I need a coat today?
I suppose an argument can be made that Sheen chose a public life. No one forced him into the limelight. I don’t know the details of his formative years, nor do I care to research his childhood. Whether or not an acting career should make one’s entire life open to the public is not an issue worth debating. America’s obsession with celebrity is not likely to diminish sans a catastrophe of monumental proportions to take its place in our collective conscience, and no one wants that to happen. Twenty-four hour a day banality means there hasn’t been a massive earthquake or terrorist attack lately.
But there is collateral damage here. Sheen’s mother, who is out of the public eye entirely, and his father, Martin, who has implored us to treat his son the same way we would a cancer victim, deserve compassion. They are unlikely to receive it from ignorant, childless gapers, but anyone who is a parent, including all those parents who stand to gain ratings from the Sheen-a-thon, should know better. He is a sick man and he is somebody’s child. He could just as easily have been ours.
Let’s stop the feeding frenzy on humanitarian grounds. If we turn off the cameras, perhaps he can get some help. Wishful thinking.
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