ALEXANDRIA, Va., Oct. 15 (UPI) -- The ancient Greek admonishment goes, "never give a child a sword." Beyond the obvious, the phrase also meant that one should never grant power to someone too immature to handle it.
Irresponsible behavior has become the norm rather than the exception in our culture because it's so easy now to apologize for infractions or sins or omissions and be forgiven. A quick jet trip to the Betty Ford Center to be "rehabbed" in 12 easy steps and then celebrated and applauded for being weak or "just human." That is, until they trip themselves up again. Then we are forced to witness the whole sorry spectacle once more.
Our culture is filled with adolescents who constantly like to take a little walk on the wild side. Bill Clinton, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Heche, Darryl Strawberry are just a few of those who have paraded their psyches for a little self-gratification and attention. All have one thing in common. Though chronologically and technically adults, all in fact are basically children incapable of taking care of either themselves or anybody else. All have an overarching need for attention to the point of self-inflicting wounds if necessary to get their "fix." Some use narcotics to get attention. For others, the attention itself is the narcotic.
But since Sept. 11, something remarkable happened to most people in America. They've grown up. My friend Vic Gold, longtime conservative writer and biographer of President George H. W. Bush, sagaciously once observed that most of us can point to that moment in our lives when we became adults. For some it is the death of a child, parent or spouse. For others, it is military service or bankruptcy. For some though, these events either never happened or never took hold.
Some people just never grow up.
In the days after Sept. 11, Bill Maher, host of "Politically Incorrect," observed quite frankly that when our American military used missiles to attack an enemy, it's "cowardly." But according to Maher, when terrorists tie up helpless flight attendants and slit their throats, when they kill thousands of innocent men, women and children by ramming airliners into buildings, that's "not cowardly." Maher was apparently unaffected by the "growth spurt" that struck other Americans on Sept. 11th.
Maher has been under siege because of his comments including, ironically, a hit from "Saturday Night Live." Brent Bozell, founder and head of the Media Research Center and president of the Conservative Victory Committee and I recently sent a memo to conservative leaders across the nation urging them to boycott the show.
Many agreed with but a few sent e-mails pleading Maher's First Amendment rights. But this is not about the First Amendment. We would defend his right to proselytize in the park, but that doesn't mean we have to give him a show or an audience; he is entitled to neither.
Some of Maher's defenders include frequent guests like Arianna Huffington and Ann Coulter, columnist-talking heads.
National Review online recently dropped Coulter's column for her intemperate writing after Sept. 11. On Sept. 12, Coulter wrote: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them all to Christianity." I wonder how Jews and people of other faiths in the U.S. military feel about that sentiment.
Another of her columns, which NR declined to run, suggested the U.S. government target "swarthy men." Does that include Energy Secretary Spence Abraham or the cast of "The Sopranos?"
But instead of going quietly, Coulter instead chose to go throw a temper tantrum, falsely charging censorship. Her next step was to go to The Washington Post and call National Review editors "girly boys."
Before Sept. 11, our culture was such that we seemed to tolerate all behavior -- and accept it. But that has all changed.
It is now time in America for the adults and not a moment too soon; beginning at the top where George W. Bush and Dick Cheney sit in the chairs formerly occupied by Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Let the immature among us; if they can't grow up, or submit to adult supervision, at least learn to shut up.
(Craig Shirley is a Washington-area political and communications consultant.)