“The most outlandish people can be the stimulus for love…A most mediocre person can be the object of a love which is wild, extravagant, and beautiful as the poison lilies of the swamp. A good man may be the stimulus for a love both violent and debased, or a jabbering madman may bring about in the soul of someone a tender and simple idyll. Therefore, the value and quality of any love is determined solely by the lover himself.
It is for this reason that most of us would rather love than be loved. Almost everyone wants to be the lover. And the curt truth is that, in a deep secret way, the state of being beloved is intolerable to many.”
– Carson McCullers, The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Stories
To me, the truly amazing thing about the audio striptease that is latest Mel Gibson scandal is the fact that people continue to be surprised by his behavior. Really? There are actually people out there who did not know that Mr. Gibson is a raving, racist lunatic? I always wondered what became of the O. J. Simpson trial jurors. Now I know.
The media is fairly choked with opinion about whether Mr. Gibson is beyond redemption, mentally ill, a danger to himself and his family, or engaged in some bizarre attempt to revive his fading career. As for myself, I prefer to see Mr. Gibson through the lens of the Southern literature class I took as a junior at Yale.
Under the marvelous tutelage of Professor Candace Wade, my classmates and I hiked through the tortured and magnificently layered landscape of the giants of Southern literature including, of course, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, Robert Penn Warren, and Harper Lee. Never before had I been simultaneously so proud and terrified of my Southern heritage. Among the many things that I remember from that class is the Southerner’s unique approach to dealing with crazy people. (It was the 80s. We were not burdened by political correctness back then.) To paraphrase Professor Wade, whom I believe was quoting Eudora Welty (or was it Julia Sugarbaker?), “In the South, we do not hide our crazy people in the attic. We put them on the front porch for everyone to see.” Would anyone be paying attention to Mr. Gibson if he were, say, Mary Susan’s odd Uncle Mel who liked to sit on the porch, drink beer, and yell obscenities at passersby – and not a Hollywood star? Probably not. Indeed, Mary Susan might even try to dress Uncle Mel up on occasion and take him to church, and then to Sunday dinner at the widow Taylor’s house. Uncle Mel is, after all, still family.
I do not, of course, mean to imply at all that Mr. Gibson should be given a pass for his despicable behavior, or that the allegations of domestic abuse should be taken lightly. The proper authorities need to do their jobs; and Mr. Gibson should seriously consider finding someone who can help him deal with the issues that repeatedly erupt with such disturbing fury. In the meantime, he should stay off the telephone and away from the cameras. And, if possible, he should also find a shady porch, a nice rocking chair, a cold glass of lemonade, and some Ritz crackers. If he is going to be crazy, why not do it in style?