Comedian Whoopi Goldberg candidly shares her thoughts about what gets on her nerves in her new book, “Is It Just Me?” An excerpt.
Abuse it and lose it
People do a lot of crazy things, but when I think about all of the things they should not be doing, the craziest thing on my mind is people drinking and driving.
How long have we been trying to stop drunk driving? Oh, only for as long as I can remember. Think of all those films they made us watch back in driver’s ed. And then there’s all the public service announcements on TV. I always wondered why they play them late at night, though, while the drinkers are still in the bars getting tanked. Oh well. But when it comes to drunk driving, you can’t say there isn’t awareness. What’s missing is effectiveness.
Maybe the ads aren’t graphic or scary enough. At least not enough to reach the people who get hammered and drive. Now, for smoking, it’s different. I see thousands of TV commercials showing people stuck in bed because they smoke cigarettes and they’re dying of cancer. They make these heart-wrenching pleas, “Don’t be like me ... Don’t smoke.” It’s impossible to watch them and not feel the impact emotionally. Unless I’m missing something, I don’t see any PSAs as powerful about drinking and driving. I don’t see anybody doing any commercials with the cars burned up and turned to charcoal ... blood spatters all over the ground ... some celebrity announcer getting all whispery, saying, had this driver not had that final drink then he or she would still be alive.
But the more I think about it, the sad truth is, maybe no public service announcement — no matter how strong or scary — is going to be enough. After all, disturbing as they are, I’ve seen plenty of those stop smoking spots, and I still light up.
I think we need to do more.
This subject has always been in my consciousness for one reason. It’s basic. I believe that people have to be responsible for what they do. There’s a concept, huh? Personal responsibility. Good lord, Whoopi’s gone crazy, talking like that!
It’s true, though. Actions should have consequences. But the consequences also have to match the responsibility. So, all right, then. If I smoke, I know there’s a possibility that I could croak from it. I also know there’s a possibility I could croak just because I stepped on the sidewalk. But what I don’t like is that I can drink and drive and get caught — and then get my car back!! That’s not a consequence. If I drink and drive, if I get pulled over and flunk the test, my car should be taken. Period. That’s a consequence. You shouldn’t get two, or three, or four, five, six chances.
Now, remember the woman who was that wrong-way driver on the Taconic Parkway in New York?
Yeah, who could forget. Well, there’s still a lot of talk about her because her husband says he didn’t know her to be a drug user or an alcohol abuser. Folks in her neighborhood were kind of saying the same thing. And yet her stomach contents told a totally different story. If the lab tests were correct, though, you have to wonder, was this a one-time thing? We will never really know. But we do know this: For a lot of drunk drivers, it doesn’t happen just once. Not even close. But, hold on, if so many people get caught drinking and driving, and then go out and do it again and again and again, it begs the question: Why is it?
I’ll tell you why.
Because there’s no consequence.
Oh, sure there are penalties, but not enough to be a deterrent. Not from what I’ve seen. Not happening. The evidence is that the behavior continues. How many times do we see that drunk drivers like the guy who allegedly killed Nick Adenhart, the Angels baseball player, are repeat offenders? Hey, why did that dude still have a car? He should not have been able to have a car. No debate. You don’t want people to drink and drive? When they do it — take the car! And then they have to prove that they’re clean and able to be a responsible human being behind the wheel.
I tell you, if I had my own world? If you drank and drove, and got caught, you would not have a car. Your new best friend would be the bus, Jack. Someone would have to come and get you from the police station. And you would not be able to get your car back until I knew that you had gone through a program and had a certificate that said you have been clean and sober for seventy-five days.
And while I’m good and hot about this, let me unload on the texters. If you get caught texting, your car should disappear for a month. Because, you know what? It’s too dangerous to text and drive, same as drinking. You get caught ... bye-bye, car. You’re not a responsible enough person.
Some people might say that is too extreme. Come on. If you’re not going to be responsible, someone has to step in like when you were a kid. The minute you’re doing something that is affecting the public roadways or other places where you can do harm to others, I don’t care if the government steps in and takes your car. You shouldn’t have been drinking and driving.
And if a public service message won’t get your attention, maybe that will.
Politics has gotten #$!@%! nasty
If you’re involved in politics, first of all, let me say this. I feel sorry for you. Seriously. How do people manage to get up every day and do that job? I don’t get it. I just don’t see how. And it’s always been a tough business. You have to have one thick hide, I don’t care what party you are in.
And being President doesn’t cut you any slack. Not one bit. No matter what a President does, the other side is going to say, “We don’t want it.” Now, that sort of comes with the turf when you have more than one political party. It’s why guys like Stalin and Hitler didn’t need to do too much debating. Or vote-counting. Campaign spending? Not an issue. We have give and take. That’s at the heart of what’s always made our country work, I think. Your side didn’t always win, but you shook hands and moved on. It’s never been perfect, but mostly, it’s been good for the people.
But things have changed. It feels like politics today is not about what’s best for the people. Politics today seems to be about my side shoulda won — and we’re going to do everything we can do to make you look bad.
And wow, do they ever.
Once, when you heard a politician say it was time to roll up our sleeves, it meant to get down to business. Now it’s for the fight. What the hell is going on? Senators flipping people off. Congressmen heckling the President, shouting that he lies. Political negativity has become toxic.
I could never go into politics. I don’t have the patience. I would have popped that guy from South Carolina that yelled “You lie!” right there in Congress. I’m tired of the disrespect that’s being shown to the office. I’m tired of people saying, “Well, we’re not going to let our kids listen to the President of the United States.” How do you not play his address to the children? What’s the message you’re sending? Is it really that you don’t like his politics?
Hey, while we’re at it? I’m also tired of people asking him for his birth certificate. Maybe they’d also like two forms of photo ID so he can cash a check while he’s at it ... Yeah, like they’d ever cash his check.
Presidents have always had their detractors, but come on. Was there ever this degree of pissing-on-trees acrimony around President Clinton or President Bush?
So what is it? Is it politics? Race? What is it?
Hard question. I go back and forth about what it is. I know what it sounds like.
But if I were President ... which would never happen ... but let’s say for these purposes here — let’s say if I were the President — I would say to that heckler, “I am the President of the United States. You may not like all my policies. You may not like what I stand for, but you don’t get to disrespect me. We are a civil society. We’re not Parliament, OK?”
But I’d say it an inch from his face ... But I wouldn’t shout. Because A, I’m not a hypocrite, and B, I’m too cool to stoop.
So what’s the deal? Is it race, or a total lack of acceptance in the turnout of the election? To make matters worse, all the talking heads have been incredibly disrespectful on both sides. There’s never been a shortage of partisan goons to push everybody’s buttons, but never like this before. This feels different.
Debates that used to be about finger-pointing are all about finger-biting. Middle-aged folks are disrupting town hall meetings. Tea Party people are taking their tea bagging to the streets . . People are scared. It’s kooky.
A few years back, when I appeared at a rally for John Kerry, I made this joke ... I’m a comic, after all. It started this ugly storm of controversy. You may or may not remember all that, but if you do, let me ask you something. Did you ever see what I said?
No, nobody did. Because if you go back to those newspapers right after the incident, try to find what I said.
Go ahead. I want you to see if you can find what I actually said. Here’s a big hint: You won’t see it.
It was a joke about Bush. But all of the newspapers that said that I said something terrible never actually printed what I said. That drove me crazy. It made it sound worse because it was left to folks’ imaginations. They print other controversial things. There’s a way to do that. You know, whenever someone curses or is crude ... what they do in print is put in some dots and dashes. “He’s a big old P-dot-dash-exclamation-point-Y.” That’s what you would see.
We saw it when Vice President Biden whispered his F-bomb to the president at the signing ceremony for the health care bill and he didn’t know his microphone was live. Good ol’ Joe. He’s the cool uncle who sort of has this Restless Lip Syndrome. Whether you like his politics or not, that guy always keeps things entertaining. And when he leaned in to whisper in the President’s ear, all the TV stations and the newspapers used the punctuation trick when they quoted him saying, “This is a big f***ing deal.”
Not the case with me.
No one took a moment to say, “Well, where is it? Where is the quote? What exactly did she say?” And here’s the real pisser. Even if I said something about the President, when did that become a no-no?
I’ve messed with Presidents from Reagan to Obama. Although ... to be clear ... I never once heckled them. And certainly not in a joint session of Congress. Puh-leeze!
Do you see there’s a difference? I comment. I skewer. I joke. That’s part of what I do as a comic. And it’s a cornerstone of America’s First Amendment rights. I mean, we’re not in Iran or China, where it is courting death. So what was the result? It became economically unfeasible to make any protest or comment. It also got very vindictive, and I got no support from Democrats who were there.
As I think about it, maybe it was the beginning of what we’re seeing more of now.
Which takes me right back to why I would never run for President. I wouldn’t. And know why? Same reason a lot of folks don’t. Or who don’t go for cabinet appointments or judgeships.
Who the hell wants to be subjected to all the prying? Ask yourself. If you had the shot, would you want all your business hanging out there like that? I hear you. Who would?
Let he who is without sin run for office, because everyone else would never pass the test. Or put up with it.
Too bad. It would be nice to have more people running our government who have lived different lives. But we’ve made it impossible for those people to step forward. There’s too much scrutiny. First your bank accounts get pawed through. Then they start pontificating about your affiliations with subversive groups. You know, like AAA and Sam’s Club. And suddenly, some distant cousin finds himself as the lead story on the news. Why? Because someone investigating you ended up discovering poor old cuz smoked pot in college. And what really upsets you is that he never shared.
And then there was that library book you checked out on — gasp! — human anatomy. Hey, judging from what most politicians are into these days, at least it was humans.
The whole process is a barrage of invasiveness. What have you done? Who did you do it with? ... And then there’s all those forms to fill out.
Now, of course, I am not perfect. I am really imperfect.
That’s why I’ll never run for office. Because you have to be too clean. I am not clean. I’ve had a lot of mud. Forget the skeletons, I’ve got the mud. And, know what? I don’t want to have to explain me to anybody.
I think we’re all better off with me here on the sidelines, doing me.
Excerpted from "Is It Just Me?" by Whoopi Goldberg. Copyright (c) 2010 Whoopi Goldberg. All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold.