Busted: Grassley’s ‘Booze or Women or Movies’ Comments Hit Close to Home

Commentary
By Ed Spivey Jr. 12-05-2017
Senator Chuck Grassley speaking at the Night of the Rising Stars in Des Moines, Iowa in 2011. Gage Skidmore / Flickr.com

When Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) accused the non-rich of squandering their money on “booze or women or movies,” my progressive friends quickly denounced him, as they should. Sen. Grassley is clearly suffering from the senility of a political dogma long past its freshness date. But me, I kept my mouth shut.

While his accusations against the self-centered working class seemed to be inaccurate in their characterizations, they brought a hot blush of shame to my cheeks. For he was describing me. I am one of the loathsome creatures he so precisely called out.

For the past three decades, my life has been as the prescient senator described. Selfishness has been my life’s work, debauchery and indulgence its loathsome creeds. Into each of his three categories of sin have I rushed, gleefully and without resistance.

For example, over the past 30 years I have lived at various times with four women who have drawn out the worst in me. I have willingly succumbed to the temptations and fleshly needs of these floozies, actually living with them in my home, where I fulfilled their every corporeal desire. When they wanted food to nourish their feminine wiles I helped provide it. A roof over their head and clothing for their bodies were given without a second thought as to the unearned privilege I was empowering. Instead of creating jobs with my limited funds, I was creating a sense of entitlement in these women who thought of nothing but themselves as they prepared for wasted, non-entrepreneurial lives in teaching, nursing, and environmental advocacy.

Admittedly, these “women of the evening” (also of the mornings and afternoons) included my wife, two daughters and a granddaughter, but their relation to me did not excuse that I squandered what little money I made on them. Instead of investing that money in, say, the stock market, where major corporations could have applied it to their ongoing patriotic work in society, I bought books for these women, and the latest fashions available at thrift stores; not to mention Lego sets for a small child whose nimble fingers could have been much better employed to assemble small appliances for an offshore company.

As if those indulgences were not enough, I lavished gifts on them for birthdays and Christmases, events that came around — I kid you not — on an annual basis! Not a year went by where I was not expected to acknowledge the quite unremarkable fact of their biological birth. At least celebrating the birth of Jesus serves the marketplace, with its emphasis on spending, as Jesus would have wanted.

And the booze was even worse. I shamelessly imbibed on an almost daily basis (and twice on weekends!). I can’t remember an evening meal where I didn’t inquire — my voice quivering with anticipation — whether a red or white wine would go best with dinner. And I always drank a full glass, never considering how much the cost of those bottles of Two Buck Chuck would add up over the decades. I wasted dozens of dollars each year on demon alcohol, just as Sen. Grassley knew. How he knew, I cannot say, but I stand ashamed of how right he was.

And the movies, oh Lord, the movies! Here, once again, it was as if the good senator was pointing his finger right at me, calling me out. I can’t remember a week in the past 40 years where I have not walked to a video store, or lingered in front of a Redbox machine, or scrolled through our Netflix account to choose a movie that we would watch, having paid for it with our hard-earned money which, again, could have been used more responsibly. We probably spent — and this may shock you — hundreds of dollars over those decades on the execrable products of Hollywood. And our own penchant for educational documentaries is a particular embarrassment to me, since many of those films were uncomplimentary to some of our nation’s finest corporations and institutions!

So yes, Sen. Grassley, you were right. I squandered. I wasted. I even delighted in the ways I spent my money on women, booze, and movies. I should have known better.

Photo: Brandon Hook / Sojourners

Ed Spivey Jr. is Art Director of Sojourners.

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