It's 2003, and there but for the grace of God we march amongst the thousands, maybe millions, just like you - just like me - into the abyss. In the blink of an eye we'll throw everything away, be it a decent job and a comfortable home plus a pleasant family life or unprecedented critical and popular praise and vast fortune, all in the wanton pursuit of something slightly to unabashedly evil.
Yeah. There but for the grace of God we go. Come on. You'd at least have to admit that no one makes that quick sprint down the casually sloping and warmly lit express lane to destruction without at least a nagging sensation that they've thrown the pink slip on the table.
Catholic priests, for instance, are Catholic Priests. They've spent years, oftentimes the vast majority of their adult lives, spelunking the cave of holiness. They've seen, heard, and riddled copious amounts of moral and social quandaries, the kind you and I might give the occasional shrug to over one too many beers.
What I'm saying is, they're probably tuned in to the fact that molestation is off the list.
Winona. Poor, dear, sweet Winona. Not only a critics darling and a fine actress who can simply and quickly be forgiven for an Adam Sandler vehicle, she's also on the receiving end of many, many male fantasies. And not just the sloppy sex fantasies that we reserve for the Britney Spearses and the Anna Kournikovas, but the kind where we buy her things and read her freshly penned sonnets while we pour her a hot herbal tea and give her a platonic shoulder massage before bed.
I haven't been in those shoes. Well, the shoplifting shoes I've been in, but that was more of a sub sandwich from the grocery store at three in the morning drunkenly stuffed down my pants in an attempt to elicit a giggle from a pretty girl.
Needless to say, it didn't work. Not even when I offered her a bite. I'm an idiot. But that's another column.
So why did Winona heist all those clothes? Was it an ill-timed reaction to some kind of chemical imbalance or, more likely, the pills downed to quash that imbalance? Even if - as she once might have asked of her early benefactor and supergenius Tim Burton - what was her motivation?
Furthermore, speaking of Britney, anyone have an inkling as to why she flipped off Mexico?
And what about those Enron guys? Or those Worldcom guys? Or those Tyco, Quest, Xerox, Halliburton, Dynegy, or ImClone guys? Or for that matter, Martha blankety-blank Stewart?
Or Jeffrey Jones, better known as Ferris Beuller's hapless principal? Ew. Just... ew.
There's a popular misconception about why this stuff happens, because it happens to all of us, only more likely as a microcosm of stupid and/or moral lapse and not so much the baby-dangling.
Look, Randy Moss probably didn't think to himself, "Hmm. That cop seems to be blocking my path. I'll just give her a good-natured bump."
It's not as if Winona figured, "This store couldn't possibly have cameras. The staff here must be either bone stupid or blind. And even if I get caught, which I won't, it won't be splashed all over the tabloids or anything like that."
They knew. They both knew. Just as you and I know. Why do they do it when we don't?
Stay with me. How many of you, when presented with a duffel bag full of money and no witnesses, would grab it and act like that bag was a gift from your Mom when you were six and you've had it your whole life?
Sure, none of you. You'd all turn it in to the nearest police officer or postal worker.
Let me make it blunter. What if there was a note with that bag, and it said something like, "Hey, snatch me. Your worries will be over. You can quit your stupid job and take care of your friends and family, all the while pursuing interests that will make you a deeper person and the world a better place. Go for it, Chachi!"?
All right, the note doesn't have to call you Chachi. But you get the point. You might pick it up. And you might not take the time to wonder if the bottom of the bag was lined with crack cocaine and child porn, and around the corner was the coffee shop where the cops with the drug-sniffing dogs liked to blow off steam.
When the brass ring is big enough, we all come up with moral justifications. On one end, you've got that puff on a joint that can be traced back to the butchering of families in some third world country, as those new anti-drug commercials so ham-handedly point out. On the other, you're murdering your cheatin' wife because they won't convict you.
And maybe they won't.
See, Winona Ryder didn't steal those clothes, Winona Ryder did. Randy Moss didn't bump that cop, Randy MFin' Moss did.
In this great race to become somebody, whether it be the Hollywoodesque big name sense or the more based in reality, who-you-are sense, we'll all have a set of goals and will all invariably be presented with endless choices. We're all actually looking for that duffel bag full of money, we just want to snatch it the right way, without hurting anybody, or destroying ourselves.
So as you enter this year, another step in the journey where you become you, keep this in the back of your head. There are two types of failure - one good, one bad. The good kind is when we work hard to make something more of ourselves and completely tank it, and that we should do often. The second, however, is the failure of ourselves, often due to fear of failure number one, and that's the one that pushes you into the express lane, the easy route, the big diamond that fits right in your pocket.
When the time comes, will you snatch?
Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.
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1.1.03 @ 4:18p
See the thing isn't "Why do they do it when we don't." Because we do. Regular people shoplift all the time. Who hasn't got a ticket for doing 90 in a 55? (Well, not me, but...)
The difference is that when some crack mom in Detroit hangs her kid out the window there's not 2000 witnesses and a national TV audience.
It's not any worse. It's just on TV.
1.1.03 @ 10:39p
Offer me a duffel bag full of money, and I'll call you mommy or daddy, or whatever you want me to call you. Just make sure the bag is stuffed with hundreds.
1.2.03 @ 9:07a
Yeah.. but.. Matt.. the real question is, "Why will they do it when they know they shouldn't?" or maybe the real question is, "What makes them think they won't get caught?"
Problem with the latter is that I can't imagine any priest thinking, "Listen to me you little altar boy -- you ever tell anyone that this has happened and I'll personally make sure you go to hell!"
Umm.. yeah.. like Mr. I-Just-Broke-5-Commandments has any sway with the guy upstairs. Please.
1.2.03 @ 9:26a
Try this one out: "What makes them think that getting caught isn't even an issue - that who they are will trump any ramifications of their indiscretion?"
Makes you think. Because we all do it.
1.2.03 @ 9:31a
I think the O.J. Simpson trial is a clear example of why that's feasible.
1.2.03 @ 12:04p
I don't think anyone - celeb or non celeb - does something like that thinking "I'm going to get caught."
Everyone thinks they're going to get away with it.
1.3.03 @ 11:10a
Whether it's drug-induced stupidity or ego-induced stupidity, they do indeed think they are going to get away with it.
And then Rider gets a freakin' modeling deal out of it. Just like Downey got the acting deals. I'm not as concerned about the people who do the crime as I am the bastards who glorify and reward them for doing it.
1.3.03 @ 11:54a
You know, if they made the fines for celebrity crimes something like "you cannot appear on the cover of a magazine for 6 months" instead of a monetary fine I bet they'd be much more effective.
1.6.03 @ 4:22p
You know Winona? Can you introduce us?
1.7.03 @ 8:09a
Do I know Winona? In the sense that I feel what she feels and hurt when she hurts? Yes. In the sense that I've actually met her? No.
You stay away from her.