Bill bennett, gambling and finger pointing: off on a tangent
I'm not a fan of Bill Bennett. He strays too far to the right for me. He is a moralizer and a preacher; one of those people who thinks their morals should be your morals.
The pieces written for and against Bennett in the past week differ only in their pro and con stance on the issue. Otherwise they are filled with the same stuffing; the let he who is without sin flavor.
On one side you have a throng of smirkers pointing their fingers and laughing at Bennett, screaming in one collective, shrill voice about the man of virtue having less than stellar virtues.
On the other side you have a throng of halo-wearing puritans pointing their fingers at anti-Bennetts, screaming in one collective, shrill voice about the sinner making good on his sin and how that is a virtue in itself.
They are both right in their own ways and both so very, very wrong.
Gambling is not merely a sin. For something to be a sin, you have to subscribe to the religion that holds it as such. For some people, gambling is simply a vice. And for others, gambling is a disease, a home wrecker, a long trip off of a short pier* in which the person who drowns is usually someone other than the gambler.
See, it's not about the millions Bennett poured into the casino slot machines. Bennett is a man who preaches the sanctity of family. A person with a gambling problem cannot possibly practice that preachiness.
Gambling consumes time the way a twister can consume a town. Gambling is an acid that eats away at the very core of your family, destroying it from the inside out.
I know this first hand. I am well-schooled in the life of gambling. I lived it, learned it and was destroyed by it.
No, I was not the gambler. But that is my point. It is not always the gambler who is eaten away by their addiction.
I know how family comes last to the man who is on a mission for money. I know how that next win is always around the corner, how you feed the money back if you lose in an attempt to recover your losses and how you feed the money back if you win in an attempt to double or triple your winnings.
I know the mindset. How everything else becomes closed off to the gambler and they see only the spinning numbers or tumbling dice or point spread. I know about vigs and pushes and despair.
Bennett, a rich man by his own rights, may not have had to worry about his wife needing to cash in the kids' bonds so she can go grocery shopping. The monetary issue of his addiction would never be a problem. As for me, the money issue was clearly a worry. But it was the time that gambling took away from the family, the obession with winning that made all else insignificant, the growls and grunts that came after a loss that mattered most.
I don't know Bennett's wife. I don't know if she barely tolerated his problem or didn't care or wasn't at all affected by it. But I do know that a man who preaches family values should not be doing something that so destroys the fabric of a family, and on such a grand scale.
The fact that he spoke out about his own problem is all well and good. That does not, however, give him back his title of Virtuous Man. The followers of Bennett have made him out to be somewhat of a hero because he was able to come forward and admit his problems.
However, the fact that he was such a huge gambler does not really affect those who are deriding him. Sure, it was hypocrisy in action. Write about it and let it go. The only people Bennett needs to answer to are those in his family. We may never know the toll his addiction took on them. We, as outsiders, do not know if they fought over this, if tears were shed, if threats were made, if their nights were filled with worry and dread.
And on the tail of this whole story comes news that Mayor Bloomberg of New York is thinking about using gambling to recover some of the money the city's budget is lacking.
This is a disaster waiting to happen. Enticing people - most of whom do not have Bennett's deep pockets - to put their hard earned money into slot machines just reaching out to them at their local newsstand is a terrible, terrible idea. It will only make the poor poorer and the rich richer.
That's what gambling does. From dollar scratch-offs to $500 blackjack tables, gambling will suck not only your pockets dry, but will suck the life from you should it be in your grasp too often. We'd all do well not to point our fingers at people, lest those fingers be pointed back at us at some point. That goes for Mr. Bennett as well as those smirking his way right now.
*phrase edited from ass backwards version to correct version. Thank you, Alex.