Is Society Outraged?
Natalia J. Garland
The summer of 2002 has quickly witnessed three extreme events
within a two-week span. First: Leslie Van Houten, one of the
Manson followers, was up for parole. Second: Leonard Gregg
started the Rodeo forest fire in Arizona. Third: Thomas Cloyd
and Christopher Hughes, pilots for America West, were arrested
for operating an aircraft while intoxicated. All of these
crimes, directly or indirectly, involved alcohol and/or drug
As a teenager,
Leslie Van Houten had difficulty coping with her parents'
divorce. She was an honor student in high school, a
cheerleader, and the homecoming princess. She also became
sexually active, had an abortion, and used L.S.D. weekly. She
later became involved with the Charles Manson cult. In 1969,
at age 19, she helped to kill Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. She
was convicted and originally sentenced to death.
imprisonment, in 1976, she received a disciplinary report for
marijuana possession. Van Houten went through alcohol/drug
rehab in prison, as well as psychotherapy. Over the past two
years, Van Houten has been an ideal prisoner. She helps other
female prisoners with their alcohol and drug problems in the
prison programs. She is now 52 years old, and was just turned
down for parole for the 15th time.
Houten's life have turned out differently if she had never
abused drugs? We will never know. We do know that nothing
good comes from alcohol and drug abuse. It would seem logical
that without drugs and the drug-related lifestyle, Van Houten
would have had a better chance for a productive life. Perhaps
the LaBiancas would have lived into old age. Drug abuse was
glamourized in those days. The Tate-LaBianca murders,
however, were so hideous that society was outraged even in the
flower-child days of 1969.
It is now 33
years later and alcohol/drug abuse is still a factor in much
criminal behavior. Leonard Gregg lived on an Apache
reservation, in a settlement called Cibecue or "valley
of green trees" where the unemployment level is at 62
percent. Gregg admitted to starting a fire that, as it merged
into the Chediski fire, destroyed almost 470,000 acres of
Arizona forest and 423 homes, and displaced 30,000 people. The
newspapers report that Gregg started the fire in order to get
work as a B.I.A. (Bureau of Indian Affairs) firefighter.
However, it is also reported that a motivating factor was the
rage Gregg felt over some of his relatives' alcohol abuse.
Alcohol and drug
abuse result in insanity. The behavior of the
alcoholic or addict and the reactions of the family can be
equally insane. Society is outraged over the Rodeo-Chediski
fires. It has been truly horrible. Society also needs to go
deeper and feel outrage that, 33 years later, children are
still born into alcoholic families and people are still
involved in alcoholic relationships. Plus, the courts are
filled with increasing numbers of alcohol/drug-related
fire was started by Valinda Jo Elliott who became lost in the
forest. Elliot and her employer, Ransford Olmsted, were on a
business trip to service vending machines. Due to road
restrictions related to the Rodeo fire, they took a remote
back way (thereby illegally entering a fire restricted section)
and ran out of gas. Elliot's cellphone was not working, so
she walked into the forest looking for higher ground where she
might get reception. She took two cigarettes and a lighter.
She was dressed in a tank top, shorts, and flip-flops. After
spending the night in the forest, the next day she heard a T.V.
helicopter and set a bush on fire with her lighter.
meanwhile, walked down the road and was given a ride by some
motorists. He bought some gas and got a ride back to his
When Gregg was
arrested, his response was, "Can I say I'm sorry for what
I did?" When Elliot was interviewed, she said, "You
can't blame me for saving my life." When Olmsted was
interviewed, he said in response to Elliot's actions, "If
I were in her shoes, I would have done the same thing."
Some Fort Apache
Indians seem outraged over Elliot's possible use of poor
judgment. Perhaps due to less newspaper coverage, only the
local Arizona public seems outraged while the rest of America
has moved on to other stories. Elliot, however, faces possible
charges of arson, civil damages, and trespassing on tribal
example is more obvious. Two airplane pilots were arrested
for being under the influence of alcohol. One of them, Thomas
Cloyd, has a history of alcohol problems. He was arrested in
2000 for disorderly conduct committed while under the
influence and was placed on probation for two years. In 1998,
he was arrested for misdemeanor domestic assault. The charges
were later dropped after Cloyd took an anger management class.
In 1986, he was convicted of a D.U.I. This could possibly
indicate at least 16 years of alcohol abuse. And this man was
outraged over the two pilots. Thanks to the actions of
an astute security screener, the pilots were arrested on
felony charges of operating an aircraft under the influence,
as well as operating a motor vehicle. Their arraignment is
scheduled for July 22, 2002. The F.A.A. (Federal Aviation
Administration) had the pilots' licenses removed under
emergency orders. Cloyd and Hughes will be eligible to apply
again for their licenses in one year, even if they are
convicted of the above charges.
usual F.A.A. policy is that a pilot's license is suspended
after the third alcohol-related offense. This means it is
possible that when you get on an airplane to take your next
vacation, the pilot could have had two D.U.I.'s and presumably
a current active alcohol problem and still legally fly an
airplane. (For a follow-up on the pilots, see Gulity Pilots Are Sentenced.)
The variable of
alcohol and drug abuse has many faces and many disguises. Is
it a coincidence that much crime is alcohol- and drug-related?
Some alcohol and drug abusers do not commit crimes. Some
criminals do not abuse alcohol or drugs. Some A.C.O.A.'s
become achievers and over-achievers. If America were
drug-free, there would still be crime. There would still be
social ills. There would still be people with antisocial
personalities. There would still be low-functioning, immature,
or self-centered people who make poor decisions and choices.
common sense and statistics would point to a safer and
happier society if sobriety were a national priority. All
Americans need to develop a sense of self-preservation that
recognizes alcohol and drug abuse as a danger that reaches
far beyond the afflicted individual. (Written 07/15/02 -
Revised 12/01/03: bibliography available.)
Until we meet