But He Came From Such A “Nice” Family

The above title to this post is actually a favored euphemistic comment offered by Southerners, and perhaps in other regions of the the USA, when perplexed observers, especially small townsfolk, offer to explain the seemingly inexplicable, ‘when someone goes bad.’ I think in the history of the Old South, it was used to describe people’s reactions to news that a well regarded person in the community had surprised if not stupefied everyone who knew that person, by doing some totally out of character bad deed. The local long time lawyer embezzling an elderly lady’s fortune, the head of the local town and sometimes only bank in the 1930’s making off with the bank’s funds and bankrupting the entire town etc. But much more often the scenario would involve that old bugaboo of sex. A scandalous affair, murder of a previous secreted paramour, backsliding into “sin,” and committing some crime “under the influence.” The reason/excuse/rationalization or just plain befuddled explanation offered to one’s friends or even if only to oneself, was the shibboleth, that ‘he [still] came from a nice family.” This harkened back to the days of the Antebellum South where good taste, being racially true and pure, whatever that was, always opening doors for ladies, always being polite and courteous to your worst enemy of romantic rival, having :good rearing,” by a “respected family” that was very successful, as somehow in most societies, perhaps perverted to an extreme in our modern business emphasis of greed and wealth as the only true standards of measure of a person, success equaled inviolate certainly of a steady moral compass in that person.

This past week we have had two nearly simultaneous scandals involving on the one hand, one of our lauded and over-idealized families of the national psyche, and a former highly regarded, middle America, salt of the earth, pillar of the community politician and warmly regarded former leader of Congress, emerge under new undeniable clouds of nefarious and to use a dated perhaps non “PC” [politically correct] phrase, “perverted’ circumstances. Of course I am referring to the public plights and perhaps overly well deserved media lashings now being suffered by Joshua Duggar of the “19 Kids and Counting,” TLC family reality television show about the now famous Duggar family, and, the former and longest serving in USA political history’s Speaker of the House, the former Honorable Dennis Hastert of the Midwest, the moral center point of our nation’s moral center if there is one.

Young Mr. Duggar has maintained a public life and has to a lesser extent, also has Mr. Hastert in spite of the apparent ever potential threat of revelations of sexual scandals in their lives. Young Mr. Duggar is now accused by various young ladies in and outside his family of having molested them when he was a teenager. I have been psychiatrically astounded that with the daily rounds of more and more solid sounding reports emerging from victims, family members and police involvement in the past and now in the present, the loaded word with as much serious gravitas as I can think of at the moment, the correct term for all this, incest, is blatantly missing from the national discussion. Dictionary explications, legal definitions, mental health pathology oriented parameters and Biblical prohibitions, all talk in one way or another about incest as the violation of basic interpersonal boundaries within a family being transgressed sexually by an older or more dominant member against a more vulnerable member of the family. Those that are supposed to be the shepherds, the responsible stewards, and protective of those relationships, instead violate them to the near universal harm of the “victim,” our more modern word for the recipient of such cruel, illegal, predatory, salacious, perverted (there’s that loaded but appropriate word again…). Then if it is the case that such incest has undeniably occurred, and unless our entire jurisprudence system of laws and protections, has changed in one week, this event is one that such illegal offense demands prosecution. Unless somehow there was revolutionary legislation passed nationally a few weeks ago that I missed in the media that allows for new “mitigating” circumstances disallowing prosecution, such as self serving, hard to believe and blethat allow for suitable, though still unfortunate circumstances.

Some of the features of the histories of these two cases are starting to sound like the Penn State molestation case by former Coach Jerry Sandusky in November 2013. “Coach” Hastert’s self mythology was that he was affectionately called a coach since he had been a wrestling coach and devoted time to youth. For we clinicians who see such cases, these kinds of elements cannot be taken a face value and can always ahave to potential of possible suggestion of grooming of youth for abuse…The teaching of how to kiss by the older brother Josh Duggar to his sisters sounds as so many of the blogger commentators have remarked, “creepy,” and in my mind possibly similarly possibly suspect.

And in spite of the fact that the Duggars were supposedly so open about their family life and the models of religious piety, faithfulness, devotion, dedication, good works, and such, they are sounding more and more like possibly a “closed family system,” a term well known to family therapists from all the mental health disciplines. These families are analogously speaking, so involved in a sort of “closed family dance,” that they all, even down to the younger child, so controlled and brainwashed that they do not blurt out in that cute Art Linkletter’s long ago television show, Kids Say The Darnedest Things [always about their embarrassed parents], the actual ongoing, dire family secrets of physical and sexual abuse.  The issue of possible grooming is doubly important. It removes the potential of the tired old excuse that his offenses were the momentary laspe in judgment of a young person, or any excuses he and/or his family could offer that it was a mere indiscretion of youth could be offered to deflect and protect from ordinarily indicated legal prosecution. Further, how could such a supposedly “moral” family not be held liable in collective fashion for permitting this to happen, ignoring its portent and potential?

Further in the Duggar case is the implication that many hands legal and family based were involved in hiding, concealing, excusing and delaying the legally required immediately reporting of “child abuse,” as is required in all states. I doubt Arkansas as a state has some legal blessing that excuses this crime against a child or children, if such occurred as is being widely alleged, and would not wish this kind of reputation. I cannot imagine Welcome to Arkansas billboards and its state border’s travelers’ rest stops blasting the message, “Welcome Child Abusers. We Understand Your Needs in Arkansas!”

Former Speaker of the House and Congressman Hastert has none of these excuses or rationales to fall back on. But I suppose he could pull the “irrestible impulse” that he has nobly struggled since he was a misguided youth and suddenly see the Light of Treatment beckoning to him and take refuge and deflect or delay consequences in a treatment center for a period of time [or until the story dies down…] a ruse we have seen employed more and more often the last decade of so.

Furthermore, Mr. Hastert’s troubles supposedly involve that other inevitable bugaboo of GREED AND MONEY. Reports of his planes, extravagant lodging, huge expense bills and commonplace joking among those who knew him about his ostensibly spending habits are now filtering out and offer him no hiding place or defense. It appears habitual patterns are emerging. And as emerged in last week’s national meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, gambling and sex addictions go hand in hand. I almost laughed when I read that digested report in the free psychiatric throwaway newsletters that land in my hospital mailbox by the box full every week touting some “new” finding. Duh, it doesn’t take a researcher corps of investgators and graduate students to figure that one out!

I do not watch much television at all and have not for years. But I would if had the time to waste, might be inclined to hear the Duggar’s “open their hearts to the friendly confines of Fox News” supposedly this coming week. I cannot possibly imagine how they are going to explain all this away. And I found it dismaying that some of the online news reports even from responsible sources, hinting that some sectors of the media are already trying to stick this tragedy into the fronts of the opposing culture wars. We have enough of that already. They need treatment not further support of their tragic mess; they need privacy and much supported soul searching as public dissection {even of this blog} could be searing and destructive to them. I comment on it from the standpoint of worry that the points that humane treatment and handling and repair of such a tragedy needs compassion and privacy and all those protective walls of true treatment to help them through what is always one of the most painful journeys of self “noticing,” self responsibility, self change, self admission of wrong, amends, working through, dedication one’s life to change and re-solving the roots of all this, not the exorcised, worked up to a rabid lather, inflamed, inappropriately aroused public castigating one side and the other [there always have to sides to blame unfortunately] so that true healing over time can occur. Not the instantaneous bop on the spiritual head, histrionic P. T. Barnum staged machinations, that while at the moment may be powerful stress relievers, are nonetheless the same old tried and true mechanisms of tragic self deception.

Mr. Hastert in my judgment if even part of the allegations toward him are true, has no excuse at all. He was an adult. He should have known better. A lifetime of pseudomorals did him no good and did not restrain his base impulses which were at least two of the Catholic “major sins.” He knew better ALL his life adult life and deserves no reprise.

The Duggar family is a family in need of true private long term repair work. I hope they receive it and not in an excusing, doctrinaire mode that will not face the fact that incest is incest.



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