Some family values. Your 77-year-old mother lies dead and decomposing for two months in a condominium not far from the radio complex where you sternly hector millions about how to live a moral life while attacking those who "deviate."
And you never bothered once to inquire how your own mom was doing? Maybe send a minion over to knock on the door once in a while? For two months, the mail piled up, the condo fees went unpaid, and you, successful syndicated radio advice guru "Dr. Laura" Schlessinger, never noticed these and other worrying signs that, as the police suggested, your mother may have been murdered?
Of course, when you finally found out, after the building manager called the police, you were "horrified by the tragic circumstances" of her death.
But was it really appropriate to add, self-servingly, that she "died as she chose to live, alone and isolated." You said, "My mother shut all her family out of her life over the years, though we made several futile attempts to stay connected."
Those are not kind words to speak of one's dead mother. Ties it all in a neat little bow, doesn't it? Italian-born Yolanda Schlessinger was "Sophia Loren-like," and you found her difficult. In a 1998 interview, you claim a childhood "that would curl your hair."
Welcome to reality: Good family values don't come easily. Problem is, you've made it sound as if they do. You are one of the leading conservative sloganeers who arrogantly claim a lock on the moral high ground while deriding those, such as homosexuals, who dare to "deviate" from your "norm." Using the title "doctor," earned in physiology rather than medicine or psychology, has lent a false credibility to your depictions of homosexuality as a "biological error," a "dysfunction" and a "deviancy" -- words that encourage hate crimes.
Worse, honoring and caring for one's parents is at the heart of your philosophy, as spelled out in your own presumptuous 1998 book, "The 10 Commandments: The Significance of God's Laws in Everyday Life." You wrote: "God's commandment of honoring parents is basically the message that parents are a conduit of God. Any profanity or harm to the parent is as if we've profaned God."
You wrote, "By honoring our parents, we learn to honor God. By honoring God we become decent human beings."
You obviously failed that test. "Even bad parents deserve to be honored if only at a minimal level," you wrote. Thus surely "honor thy father and thy mother" intends something more than letting a septuagenarian woman go months at a time without even a drive-by visit from her daughter.
You also wrote: "There is often a profound unwillingness to give anything to a parent perceived as being unloving or undeserving.... That avoidance is part of the mentality that says, 'If it doesn't obviously serve me, I won't do it and I shouldn't have to!' " Apparently, that is your mentality.
But you, whose shallow perceptions are laced with bursts of meanness and contempt for others, will no doubt continue as a hot media product and a darling of the religious conservatives. "A positive voice for positive values without equal in our time," gushed the Rev. Robert Schuller.
What can we draw from all this? That family relationships are exceedingly complicated and often painful. That maintaining true "family values" is not a matter simply of attending church, being heterosexual and mouthing platitudes, but demands humility, resiliency and deep compassion. That religious texts like the Bible can provide inspiring lessons in the hands of sincere teachers and also can be used as clubs by the cynical and ambitious.
And finally, that the "Dr. Laura" show typifies the dangerous hypocrisy of those who build profitable and politically potent empires on the basis of claiming a monopoly on simplistic answers to complex problems. The guilt and shame they induce in those who might resist their nostrums is loathsome, made more so when they themselves so casually ignore them.
Copyright 2002 Los Angeles Times