August 29, 1996
Richard Brian McCarty
Growing up in rural South Carolina, evangelists were a major part of my youth.
They would come to town and the local churches would pool money to pitch a tent and serve
refreshments. Iced tea, fire and brimstone, and cassette tape burnings would fill a warm
And, the champion of all time, when it came to evangelists, was Brother Jimmy
Swaggert. He could draw a crowd anywhere. People tried to preach like him. My neighbor
even gave a Jimmy Swaggert study Bible to me for Christmas one year.
I remember watching Brother Swaggert on televison. He would mesmorize me as he
preached of Hell and the evils of alcohol. I can hear him now talking about the evil that
is " al-key-hall," and how without it, man would be so better off. While he was
warning us all about taking the occasional drink, Brother Jimmy was cruising streets
looking for prostitutes to perform various acts for him. His preaching, however
charismatic about one sin, was overshadowed by his own actions with another.
I thought about Brother Jimmy when I saw President Clintion and his staff today
talk about their root of all evil: tobacco. Clinton is a chubby, southern, and charismatic
guy who knows best in his own mind how we should live. He tries with all his heart to make
us feel guilty about teenage smoking. Joe Camel would be ready for the bonfire after
Brother Bill's speech in tiny Honea Path, SC.
But, like Brother Jimmy, the President's actions speak so much louder than his
words. The real news about teenagers this week is the increased use of hard drugs. There
is more cocaine use. There is more pot smoking. There is more drug use of all kind all
around among the teens of this nation. But, the President preaches about smoking tobacco.
Harmful as it may be, it is nothing compared to the harm of drugs. Personally, I would
rather have learned about Brother Swaggert taking a drink than of cruising for
prostitutes. And, likewise, I would rather teens, if they must have a kick, sneak a smoke
of Camels, instead of pot or hits on drugs.
Brother Swaggert's fire and brimestone preaching diverted people from his sins,
and Bill Clinton's efforts about teenage smoking are a diversion to get us to forget about
the drug use among teens. But, the truth, that enlightening part of life, points to Bill
Clinton and his Adminstration as creating an atmosphere that makes teens and others think
that hard drug use is not all that bad.
It started with his admission of pot use. Everyone knows that Brother Bill did
not inhale. But, it almost seemed cool that he tried the stuff. And, how can fathers and
mothers accross the country tell their teens that drug use will ruin their life if a pot
smoker is President? Just imagine the conversation.
"Son, if you smoke dope, your life will go down the tubes," Joe
American tells his teenage son.
"Hey, ease up dad, the President did it, and he became President, so what
is the harm?" the son replies.
It is important that we note that Clinton did not say that his pot use was a
mistake. He smirked when he said he did not inhale. He missed the chance to say,"If I
would have used it a lot, I would not be in the running for the Presidency."
Why didn't he say that? There is a simple answer to that. The people around him
apparently do not have a problem with hard drug use. The White House is full of staffers
who have avoided drug tests. The President's Surgeon General appeared in court to tell the
judge that her son's selling of drugs was not illegal. And they wonder why teens have such
a problem with understanding the real effects of drug use.
Just like Brother Swaggert, the President will preach against the lesser sin to
the point of making us forget about the bigger sins he and his Administration have
created. As a youth, I listened more to Brother Swaggert than the uncharismatic and
vanilla Sunday School teacher I had. I thought that charisma meant right.
I will not make the same mistake again. Brother Bill can preach the fire and
brimestone all he wants about teen tobacco smoking, but I hear his actions on hardcore
drug use so much louder. I only hope that America does, too.
Richard Brian McCarty has worked on several political campaigns of conservatives. He holds
a Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina and a BS degree from Lander
University. An experienced writer, McCarty's columns are written from a distinctly
Southern point of view. He is sometimes Southern, sometimes conservative, sometimes
humorous, and sometimes all three.
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