In this October season, I could write about a lot of things. I might do a column about the first presidential debate, and compare Romney’s performance to Obama’s. Perhaps I should do an article about the vice-presidential debate, and talk about the issues Biden won on, and those where Paul Ryan prevailed.
Maybe I can write about a favorite Halloween story. Or another editorial about the importance of voting in this election would work. But I won’t talk about those things. Instead, I’ll tell a tale about a man who recently passed away, whose life can teach us all a lesson.
This man grew up highly intelligent, with good parents. He tried his hand at being an engineer at Georgia Tech, but found the law to be his calling, and graduated from the University of Florida’s law school. He went to work for a top-notch law firm in Jacksonville. He had a wife, two beautiful daughters, and a two-story house and his favorite type of dog in the backyard. He was so good at his work that he often argued cases before the Florida Supreme Court. He lived the American dream.
But sometimes, such dreams have their price. The pressures of being on top take their toll. He was a good man, and wouldn’t try and consciously take it out on family and friends. So he compensated by taking it out on himself. That way, nobody had to get hurt but him, right?
It didn’t work out that way, because when you abuse yourself, you hurt others. Those who loved him went through a lot of pain as the result of his behavior. His actions hurt his ties with his wife and kids. He left the firm, and struck out on his own, at a bad economic time when the job market was flooded with lawyers. Things just went from bad to worse.
His story reminded me of an episode from the 1980s television show “Miami Vice,” where an African-American judge (played by NBA legend Bill Russell) had a gambling problem, and got into big debts. To take care of the huge sums he owed to criminals, he let a drug dealer guilty of murder off on a contrived technicality. He also was pressured by the syndicate to convince his son, a basketball star (played by NBA player Bernard King), to throw the big game, to make the criminals a fortune
The son was angry with his dad and couldn’t believe what he heard from him, and why. But then, the son came to his dad, claiming he owed everything to his dad. He’d do what his dad told him.
A day later, the judge told his son to play that game of his life that night. Then he went out on the syndicate leader’s boat with a gun. He dispatched the murderer and crime boss, but was mortally wounded in the process. As he lay dying, he looked up at the Miami Vice detectives who were investigating him and tried to stop him. As a radio blared the results of how his son won the big game, the judge uttered his last words: “I finally broke even.”
This lawyer I knew remarried, and did clean up his act somewhat with those he unintentionally hurt. As I received news of his death, I thought about the final words spoken by the judge. Both had broken even. And when one suffers from an addiction, whether it is gambling or some sort of substance, it’s never too later to make things right before it’s too late.
John A. Tures is an associate professor of political science at LaGrange College.