Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sometimes Hell is Close to Home

by Pa Rock
Social Commentator

Former child star Mackenzie Phillips is out peddling a book, High On Arrival. The drug-addled actress is now forty-nine, but three decades ago she played Julie on the popular sitcom, One Day at a Time. Her salary on that television show eventually reached $50,000 a week. She was also featured in the cult classic movie, American Graffiti, when she was only twelve-years-old.

Referring to Ms. Phillips as drug-addled probably comes across as a bit harsh, but she was fired from her TV series for drug use, and one member of her family recently said that she has had a needle in her arm for the past thirty-five years. That all needs to be noted just as a credibility check on the story that she has told.

Mackenzie Phillips was the daughter of John Phillips of the hugely popular 1960's music group, The Mamas and the Papas. Her step-mother, Michelle Phillips - John's wife - was also a member of the same group. After the demise of the group, John and Michelle were fairly open about their drug use. They ran around with stellar role models like Mick Jagger and the other band members of the Rolling Stones. Drugs were their lifestyle.

John Phillips has been dead for several years now, and Mackenzie has written a book exposing her loving daddy as the person who led her into hard drug usage and "pushed the plunger" the first time she shot up with cocaine. (What a guy!) She also said that Papa John raped her when she was nineteen. It was the night before her first marriage, and she was in a drug stupor. She woke up to find the deed had been done. That evening began a sexual relationship between father and daughter, according to Mackenzie, that lasted for a decade.

Some members of her family have rallied around her and offered support as she bares her soul to the world. Others in the family have been less kind, upset over the spillage of family secrets, or accusing her of being a lying bookseller just out trying to score some more money to shoot up her arm.

So why did I let this story whip me into a lather? Because I know families like this, I've looked into their scared, troubled eyes, listened to their tales of terror, felt their vulnerability and loss of self-respect. I don't know if John Phillips slept with his daughter for ten years and tried to convince her to move to Fiji with him where their love would be accepted. I don't know if Mackenzie is finally confronting her demons by writing this book, or if she is just some lying hustler.

But here is what I do know.

I know that this stuff happens, and not just in poor households out in the woods. I worked at the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline in Jefferson City one summer, and I took incest calls from rural areas, St. Louis and Kansas City, and even the intellectual enclave of Columbia. So I know that John Phillips, a drug addict who probably had few boundaries, if any, could have had sex with his daughter.

I know that if this happened, there would be people in the family who would deny it and blame the victim. It is much easier to blame the victim than it is to admit that such a monstrous thing could happen in their own family. Better to deal with a "deeply troubled youth" than to admit that a monster was loose and systematically destroying a life.

I know that in cases of incest, the victim is never to blame, regardless of their age at the time the sex was initiated. In a family system, certain people inherently have the power, and if they use that power to seduce those that have been dependent on them, they are the perpetrators - they are evil.

I testified in court on Tuesday on behalf of a young man who was shaped into a monster by his family. There was no incest involved, but there were many things that occurred in that family that children should have never experienced or been around. It was a very bad environment, and he became a very bad person. If he had grown up in my home - or yours - he would not be in prison today.

One other time I worked with a young man who had sexually assaulted a mentally challenged young girl. He was a teenager at the time, and he was already hard-wired into a life of crime, drug usage, and sexual perpetration. This young man had a drug addict father who had traded him to his buddies for drugs when he was a small child. The buddies used him for sex. As he got older he took up residence in his mother's bed. When I first met him, he told me that he thought that he might be the parent of some of his youngest siblings.

That shit is evil. Kids are born good, but when they are driven into madness by the people who should be giving them love and support and hope, they are destroyed and so are we. My educated guess is that Mackenzie Phillips may be out hustling a quick buck with her book, but she is doing it by baring her soul and giving us a long gaze into her hell. I believe her.


Mike Box said...

Ms Phillips did not make a bogus hotline call. She has zero to gain in this venture save the hope that the fresh air and light of her honesty will help her heal.

Well, that and the hope that society will realize that this stuff does occur. Then maybe someone else will have the chance to heal as well.

If she were out for a quick buck I believe she could have sold her work to those who didn't want the story told.

I like what she said: "forgiveness isn't for the other person. Forgiveness is for you." She's come a long way from her drug addled ways.

Anonymous said...

I believe her too! NO ONE who has suffered that tragedy would face the humiliation and shame of a confession unless it were true.