Tazi's Corner: Issue #4: Fortunate Sons' Unfortunate Behaviors

Hello, dear readers! It has been a busy week here in Tazi Land! Mommie decided to clean the house, which means I had to find a place to hide from the vacuum. Luckily, Mommie's laptop computer was shoved under the bed, and I was able to bang out today's commentary! It's a bit long, but Mommie was on quite the cleaning spree!

Tazi's Corner Life As Your Pet Sees It!

What’s in a name? A lot, according to some. I have met people who brag about being related to Paul Revere, to General Robert E. Lee, to those who emigrated on the Mayflower. I have never, however, heard anyone brag about being related to Leon Czolgosz, have you? Did you have to Google that one? I am certain that the members of the Czolgosz family are grateful not to be remembered as the descendents of a Presidential assassin (Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist, assassinated President William McKinley).

Your family name is how you are recognized in society. Take a quick look on Facebook and see how many women have both their married and maiden names listed. A part of this is so people from their past can easily find them; but might it also be out of a sense of pride for their family reputation? If one was embarrassed by their family connections, I do not think they would be listing them. I often hear my Mommie refer to herself by her mother’s maiden name, as that name goes back four generations in our mid-sized city, while her father’s name only goes back to him (and he is reputed to be a bit crazy!).

Here in Rhode Island, where I live, there are several families of esteemed pedigrees; families whose names stretch back through our stories history; names that bring pride to our little state, which is a nice change from the shame of corruption that often brands us in the political headlines. Two names of distinction here in Rhode Island are Chafee and Whitehouse.

The Chafee name is one that has been around for almost as long as Rhode Island itself, but which earned its national distinction through the efforts of the late John H. Chafee, former Governor of Rhode Island, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of the United States Navy (under President Nixon). A graduate of Harvard Law and a bold decision maker, Senator Chafee (as he is fondly remembered) was a fiscal conservative with a social conscience, championing environmental conservation efforts on both the state and national level while arguing for fair taxation laws. Senator Chafee served for twenty-three years in the United States Senate, and would have served longer had his death not prevented re-election. His term was completed by his son, Lincoln D. Chafee, the same Chafee who now serves as Rhode Island’s Governor. Speaking of U.S. Senators, I will move on to Rhode Island’s current officeholder, Sheldon Whitehouse (D).

Senator Whitehouse has an impressive biography of his own, made all the more impressive by his family history – Senator Whitehouse’s father is none other than the esteemed Charles Sheldon Whitehouse, the former Ambassador to Southeast Asia during the Viet Nam years; a highly decorated U.S. Marine (seven Distinguished Flying Crosses, twenty-one Air medals); and a member of the CIA, by career. Senator Whitehouse himself is a man of impressive credentials: a graduate of Yale University and the University of Virginia Law School; a former U.S. Attorney under President Clinton; and a former Attorney General for the State of Rhode Island in addition, of course, to being a sitting U.S. Senator.

Why does the topic of identity and pedigree strike my fancy this week? Like a ball of yarn in my paws, it has been batting around in my head because these last few months have been a time of great public shame for the current and former U.S. Senators from Rhode Island, and the source has nothing to do with their voting record. Rather, it comes from a more personal source: the behavior of their teenage progeny. The two boys in question (I can hardly call them men, considering their behavior) are Caleb Chafee, son and grandson of Lincoln D. Chafee and John H. Chafee, respectively; and Alexander Whitehouse, son of the aforementioned Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

What unfathomable crime might these two boys have committed? Being in their late teens and recently graduated from prep school, if you guessed underage drinking you would be correct – but that isn’t the entire story. It is what they did after they got good and schnockered that separates their behavior from the harmless shenanigans of youth; crimes that I believe should be punished all the more severely because of their youth, and not in spite of it if they are to learn from their mistakes (at least in the case of young Chafee whose behavior reflected not the ignorance of youth but the sense of entitlement that can sometimes come with growing up a “have” as opposed to a “have not”).

Back in May, Caleb Chafee graduated from the prestigious Portsmouth Abbey prep school, and received admittance into the equally prestigious Brown University. Caleb’s father – Rhode Island’s governor – reminded the citizenry of these important accomplishments in light of his son’s psychotic behavior. What is it that his son did? I’ll keep you hanging no longer.

In celebration of his academic achievements, Caleb Chafee held a party on the grounds of a rural estate that is managed by his mother. No other adult was home (Caleb, by virtue of his age, is considered an adult) and alcohol was liberally served; so liberally, in fact, that one young woman in attendance, a classmate of Caleb Chafee, required medical treatment for alcohol poisoning. According to the police report Caleb, the upstanding young man that his father claims him to be, told the people who came to the young woman’s aid to “call 911 only after [they] were off his property."(1) Later that night, Caleb continued to show concern for no one but himself by calling his ill classmate at home to inform her that his attorney was en route to her house and that she should “plead the fifth”(2) in response to any questions that were asked of her. Young Chafee is no stranger to pleading the fifth; back in April he did just that after being arrested and charged with attempting to purchase beer, in spite of the fact that he is only 18. (In Rhode Island, you must be 21 to purchase alcohol; the attempt to purchase while underage is a criminal offense. Chafee pled “no contest” to the charge, which was expunged from his record a few weeks later, around the time of this new incident).

The current case of Caleb is currently under investigation by the Rhode Island State Police, and Governor Chafee is calling the matter “a private matter”(3). No, Governor, it is not a private matter. A crime – perhaps more than one – has been committed; just because the perpetrator is your son does not make it a “private matter”. The fact that Caleb graduated with honors and will be attending Brown University is a “private matter” because, quite frankly, the average Rhode Islander does not give a barbecued rat’s ass about Caleb’s academic record! These accomplishments, while impressive, have no affect on anybody but Caleb. Paw slaps of disgust for both of you before I move on to Alexander Whitehouse...

When it comes to drinking, Alexander Whitehouse appears to have more issues than the National Geographic archives. (To his credit, it is apparent that he has not been taking lessons from his friend Caleb Chafee). The first rule of drinking that anybody learns is not to mix hard liquor and beer. If they do not learn this lesson the easy way, they learn it the hard way by getting violently ill. The second rule of drinking is that you NEVER DRINK AND DRIVE, especially if you are underage. Here in Rhode Island, the legal alcohol content for a driver under 21 is 0.0. That’s right, zero-point-zero, as in nothing – not even cough syrup – should be in your system. Apparently, these are lessons that young Mr. Whitehouse never learned (what do they teach kids at these fancy prep schools?) because just this week he was pulled over for drunk driving.  According to published news reports Alexander failed a field sobriety test, that his eyes appeared "severely bloodshot and glossy", and that two BAC tests revealed his blood alcohol content to be a .091 – over the .08 legal limit for drinkers of legal age.

Now, if young Whitehouse was only out drinking but not driving, I could forgive his error in judgment. If he was driving alone, I would not be taking him to task today over being so stupid as to put others in danger. However, 19-year-old Alexander committed the unforgivable: He was not only driving drunk (he admitted to drinking “three Bud Light beers and four shots of gin in two hours”[4]), he also had a passenger with him (who had an open container – a big no-no in Rhode Island) – and was speeding! How many lives did he endanger that night? Furthermore, I am hesitant to believe that Alexander was being entirely truthful with the police who stopped him. According to the police report, upon searching Alexander Whitehouse's vehicle police found “a silver flask of gin on the floor of the front passenger seat and an empty bottle of vodka and a half-empty bottle of gin in the trunk. An officer also found a glass pipe and a cloth sunglass bag containing marijuana on the floor of the front passenger's seat”(5). Hang your head in shame, young man! To their credit, Senator and Mrs. Whitehouse released the following statement: “We are deeply concerned and upset by our son's poor judgment. But we love Alexander and we will deal with this as a family”. Thank you, Senator, for not using this moment to brag on your son’s academic accomplishments.

As previously discussed in this column, the names of Chafee and Whitehouse carry great respect here in Rhode Island. The reason for this deference is that these two families, over generations past, have earned the admiration and respect of Rhode Islanders. Being New Englanders, we do not give that away very easily; we make you earn it time and again – there are still locals who judge the late Senator Ted Kennedy not by his years of service, but solely by his (admittedly egregious) mistakes at Chappaquiddick. What does the future hold for the names Chafee and Whitehouse? Many would argue that the Chafee reputation has been teetering since the death of Senator John H. Chafee; will his grandson be the one to put the nails in this coffin? The Whitehouse reputation is one that, up until now, was un-besmirched in any way. Is Alexander’s recent behavior a lapse in judgment or a preview of things to come? [Editor’s Note: This past Friday, Alexander Whitehouse pled “no contest” to charges of drunk driving].

In the end, after all else is destroyed or forgotten, a person’s name is all they have - teach your children to protect it through honorable actions, not dishonorable attempts to cover up shameful behaviors. What do they teach children at those fancy prep schools?

-- Tazi-Kat

References:

1 – 3: WJAR-TV10/Providence-New Bedford; Web http://www2.turnto10.com/news/2012/jun/21/8/attorney-general-reviewing-p...

4 – 5: WJAR-TV10/Providence-New Bedford; Web http://www2.turnto10.com/news/2012/jul/25/senators-son-arrested-ar-1115588/ Ask Tazi! is ghostwrittenby a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.


Write to Tazi-Kat by email at tazikat@yahoo.com or via www.asktazi.com.

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