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What will Rush say then?

by Dale Ellis Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 5:06 PM
editor@thesuntimes.com

Rush didn't check into the nearest state penitentiary -- no, the million man checked himself into rehab. While he may have known what was good for everyone else addicted to drugs, when it came to his own problem he sure didn't practice what he preached.

What will Rush say then?

Dale Ellis, Sun-Times (AR), November 03, 2003

You know, I've always liked Rush Limbaugh, I began listening to him probably more than 15 years ago. I thought at first he was a joke, a parody of conservatism, whose sole purpose was to inflame and incite discussion and debate.

To tell you the truth, I really don't know that I was wrong. Sure, Limbaugh was bombastic, egotistical, and sometimes more than a little hard to live with. But, he was entertaining, which is why he became a virtual one-man industry, besieged by imitators but never matched for pure virtuosity of the medium he has commanded so well for so long.

Not only that, he made a load of money doing it. Obviously, someone, somewhere, thought he was worth it.

Who'da ever thunk Rush himself, the arch-conservative, the anti-drug guy, would fall prey to the allure of painkillers, especially to the tune of (if the National Enquirer is to be believed) over a thousand little Oxycontins a week.

Of course, he could afford them. Twenty five million bucks a year will by a lot of feel-good.

Rush is a prime example that the very serious problem of drug addiction in our country knows no boundaries. It is no respecter of race, religion, socio-economic standing, or political affiliation. In short, it is a disease that can strike anyone.

Which makes it all the more disturbing that someone like Rush Limbaugh is entering rehab.

I mean, this is the guy who, for many years now, has advocated as drug treatment for those unlucky enough to get caught in that web, jail terms. Long jail terms. No treatment, no mercy, no consideration of the disease factor that they face. No, just jail. Let 'em dry out in a jail cell while they meditate upon the sins they have visited on society.

You see, looking at the whole problem as a crime and punishment issue is the easy way out, a way that feels good because it shows an immediate result to what has become an absolute scourge upon society.

And yes, it is a scourge. Drug related crime is at an all-time high, and fully 60 percent of those incarcerated are there for such drug-related crimes, up to and including murder.

Those I have no problem with. If a person kills someone, breaks into their home and steals their silverware, or mugs someone on the street for their Social Security check, I say lock 'em up. Sure, they have a disease, but there is also such a thing as free will. People who have cancer or heart disease don't generally knock over liquor stores for entertainment or to pay their doctor bills.

But a disturbing number of those people now in prison are there for the crime of possessing or using drugs. That is a lot like locking someone up because they have committed the heinous crime of having Rheumatoid Arthritis, which, as everyone knows, can lead to crippling pain and really ugly hands.

But drugs are perceived as being a different sort of animal. And maybe they are, I don't profess to be an expert.

But what I do know is the guy who has spent all these years as a self-proclaimed authority on the subject has fallen prey to the very disease in himself that he has always professed to be a moral failing in everyone afflicted.

Except him.

No, Rush didn't check into the nearest state penitentiary, do not pass go do not collect 0.

No, the million man checked himself into rehab. When it came to his own problem, he succumbed to the very human failing that while he may have known what was good for everyone else, it became a different story when it became his problem.

We can only hope that it will open his eyes to some very basic truths. Such as the fact that, for all his money and power, he is really not that much different from the rest of us.

And if rehab is good enough for him, maybe it should be good enough for the wino down the street digging through the trash dumpsters.

I'm not prepared to call Rush Limbaugh a hypocrite just yet. It is too easy to pass value judgments on those you never have to face for a problem that hasn't touched you (yet).

The real proof of his integrity will come after he gets out of rehab, after he goes back on the air. Maybe he'll sing a different tune then. And maybe not.

But we'll be tuning in. And then we'll know. We'll all know.

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