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That some people — make that, lots of people — will go before millions of strangers and tell the most intimate details of their lives is something that will never seem quite right to many of us. This is the result of growing up in a time when restraint was highly valued and widely practiced; when the desire to avoid shame had a major effect on behavior. Shame has taken many whacks but it kept the grime rate down. It also convinced many of us of such notions as the innate dignity of man. We now know better. With the slightest prompting, many humans gleefully become swine.
That is the deepest lesson television teaches us, and it is no minor teaching. It would be nice, of course, if restraint could regain some of its previous cachet. That is highly unlikely. We seem doomed to ever-ghastlier excesses, with no end in sight. Evolution isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be, which is something else worth keeping in mind.
IT IS ALSO TRUE, HOWEVER, THAT you can learn truly interesting things from these shows. Mrs. Toogood, for instance, is reported to hail from a group called the Irish Travelers. It is safe to say that many Americans had never heard of the Irish Travelers before Mrs. Toogood went upside her child’s head. The name suggests a musical ensemble, perhaps of the type encountered at Irish theme bars singing “Whiskey in the Jar” in the finest of dinner theater accents. We now know the Travelers go about much like gypsies, doing odd jobs here and there and basically spending their lives on the road. By one count, there are around 50,000 Irish Travelers in the United States.
Richard Roeper, who writes for the Chicago Sun Times, has reported that some Travelers are crooks and cons. In one instance, “a brother-sister team of Irish Travelers created a rape-and-robbery scenario in a Walt Disney World hotel.” Sis had sex with one of her paramours, then checked into a Disney resort and had her brother tape her to a bed and beat her with a stick. She somehow freed herself and called the cops, complaining she had been assaulted by a man wearing a Dracula costume. She thereafter filed suit against Disney. They might have gotten away with it had they accepted Disney’s offer to settle for $200,000. They wanted a million, however, and kept things boiling. Eventually, new evidence surfaced and they ended up in jail.
Travelers, Mr. Roeper further reports, have cheated some old folks out of their hard earned cash; the victims tended to be blind, deaf, or mentally disabled. We now learn that Johnny Toogood, Madelyne’s husband, swindled some old folks in Philadelphia and perhaps others in Montana, while two Virginia bail bondsmen say he is wanted in the Old Dominion for forgery. Mr. Toogood is said to have at least one other name: John Lark. One cannot help but crack a wee smile, though only for a second, lest a video camera be operating nearby.
All this is of course small potatoes. If a few swindles and beatings are the worst that can be dredged up about a group with 50,000 members, then it is clear the Irish Travelers are a pretty upstanding bunch. Indeed, it is safe to assume that a backlash will soon develop against the anti-Traveler stereotype. Mrs. Toogood will return to Larry’s show, play the victim role with perfection, and perhaps inspire the host to one of his patented goofy pronouncements:
Larry: Madelyne, is it true the Irish Travelers are one of the Lost Tribes of Israel?
Who, truly, would be surprised?
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?