"This is an important point in my life and I need to take responsibility for my actions. In the future, I plan on taking more of an active role in the decisions I make ... Although I am scared, I am ready to begin my jail sentence." Attorney Richard Hutton's statement on behalf of Paris Hilton as she begins a 23-day sentence in a special Los Angeles county jail "for celebrities and high-profile inmates".
Paris Hilton, the pampered young heiress to the Hilton hotel fortune, has made a lot of headlines in her 26 years. Booze, sex, wild parties, arrests she keeps her publicists busy.
A high school drop-out, Hilton has tried her hand at all the usual celebrity careers: modeling, singing, acting, lending her name to a line of fashion accessories. Except for keeping her antics in the gossip rags, she hasn't yet shown any discernible talent. But with a reported $40 million inheritance in the bank, young Ms. Hilton may not be too worried about where her next paycheck comes from.
It isn't like she'll end up scrubbing floors in Daddy's hotels.
In her latest adventure, Hilton landed in the slammer for violating probation, a small matter of driving 70 in a 35 in the dark without headlights on a suspended license. Her 23-day sentence is the nearest thing to rough justice the wealthy ever get in America. My hat is off to Judge Michael Sauer for hanging tough despite pressure from a "Free Paris" campaign orchestrated by her clueless fans.
That's the background. What really interests me is Ms. Hilton's statement before surrendering to authorities. I'm going to take the naïve approach and credit these words to Paris herself:
I need to take responsibility for my actions. In the future, I plan on taking more of an active role in the decisions I make...
"More of an active role" is an interesting phrase. Ms. Hilton originally claimed that she had been misinformed by her "staff" about the conditions of her parole. Wealthy young socialites apparently delegate such things to their assistants. Hilton complained that it was too much to expect that she should have to remember every little court order. Judge Sauer found that argument unconvincing.
Most of us make our own decisions. Most of us learn early in life that whether those decisions turn out for good or ill, we alone are responsible for them.
To say that she plans to take "more of an active role" in her decisions suggests that she still feels she was let down by her staff. Is the poor child incapable of making decisions for herself? Or, has a life of privilege taught her to delegate every mundane detail of her life to her minions?
Human beings are autonomous moral agents with free will. (Calvin got it wrong.) Like a bowling ball exploding through a set of 10-pins, every "cause" we unleash on an unsuspecting world creates countless "effects," some of them unpredictable. Taking responsibility for what we do, what we fail to do, and what we didn't mean to do is a sign of maturity. Perhaps Paris' "more of an active role" is a hint that she is ready to grow up?
We are created in the image of God, and God Himself is a creator. Which means that we, too, are little creators. It is part of our God-ordained human identity that we be people who are active, not passive, people who make decisions, people who are agents of change, positive change, in a crumbling world.
We were never intended to live life in the passive voice. God did not create us so that we could float downstream on an inner tube, moving at the whim of a powerful current.
God gave us arms and legs. He intends for us to swim to the shore, haul ourselves out of the water and go for a long hike.
To change the metaphor, God put Adam and Eve in charge of the garden and told them to get busy planting and weeding.
One hopes that while Paris cools her heals in the LA County celebrity slammer without makeup, without her hair stylist, wearing that ghastly orange jumpsuit day and night one hopes and prays that she'll come to Jesus. Maybe attend a few AA meetings. Maybe look back on her life and ask a few hard questions. What have I accomplished? How can I use my celebrity status for good? What do I want my legacy to be when I'm too old for the paparazzi to pay any attention?
One also hopes that Ms. Hilton will follow through on her statement, pry herself out of that inner tube and start swimming for shore. She's young yet, young enough to discover the purpose God made her for. Young enough to make a difference. Old enough to start making her own decisions.
If she turns her life around, the Paris gossip industry will tank. The gossip rags might be a little less interesting until some other wild child rises up from the Hollywood clubs and takes her place.
There are plenty of Paris understudies waiting in the wings.
Update: By now you've probably heard that Paris' doctors and attorneys broke her out of jail in a case of tough love going soft. It's too bad. Not only will she learn nothing about the consequences of bad behavior, but now Ms. Hilton will have to defend herself against the absurd charge that justice for the rich bears no resemblance to justice for the poor.
That's so unfair! As she sips a good red wine tonight and drifts off to sleep under silk sheets in her air-conditioned mansion, that (velvet covered) electronic bracelet on her ankle will be a constant and humiliating reminder that in California, justice is blind, and fearsome.
Update 2: She's back in the slammer. Judge Sauer was apparently not pleased with the decision to release Ms. Hilton and had her returned to jail. As a public service, I'll be changing the graphic hourly, as necessary, to indicate Hilton's current status.