By Joe Haran

Trouble in Paradise

The legendary happiness of clams is due to their being able to bury themselves completely from view, but we humans tend to live our lives in the full light of day. Take, for instance, Tonya M. Harding. She is an affable, beautiful, charming, courageous, sexy, well-built and witty young woman who is an athletic genius in her career field and an excellent teacher of her sport. But, as publicity of recent events revealed to the public, she is prone to spells of rage. This self-destructive characteristic is amplified by her drinking as well as by the company she tends to keep.

Tonya's complexity of behavioral problems could and should have been addressed years ago but, due in large measure to the environment in which she chooses to remain, both she and those around her have remained satisfied with the status quo. This approach has not worked. Now, Tonya's brilliant career achievements seem all for naught: she's been arrested and that in itself, no matter the outcome in court, is enough to stifle future opportunities in figure skating. What will become of her should she be unable to skate? Tonya's skating genius is, in my analysis, her best and most reliable friend.

The journalistic media, of course, couldn't be happier. They've got new material for their ongoing big joke: Tonya Harding. Now, here's a five-feet-tall gal who weighs 105 pounds beating up a great big young guy. What fun! Well, domestic violence isn't fun (shame on the media) and assault is never justified (shame on Tonya). Sure, I hope Tonya is found to have been defending herself. Witnesses stated Darren Silver was taunting her, something he should have known not to do in light of Tonya's state of mind at the time. But, there's no accounting for brains. Yet, who pays the greatest price? I doubt Mr. Silver is in danger of loosing his livelihood.

Ever since I first met Tonya, in 1992, I've wondered why she hasn't hooked up with a really smart guy her own age: some nice fellow who, say, graduated from college and had the wisdom and wit to encourage her down paths of improvement and support. There has been no lack of offers by such young men. Why, when choosing partners does she apparently gravitate toward confidence artists and control freaks? My armchair amateur opinion is that Tonya doesn't think much of herself, in spite of all her career accomplishments. Considering her upbringing, low self-esteem is indeed probably the heart of the matter.

That plus all the crap she's put up with from ex-partners, the figure-skating establishment, jealous peers and the media--not to mention the justice system, which now comes at her again. Hence, Tonya's adhering to Life in Dogpatch with its attendant fleas. And there may be something more to all this, something that can only be effectively dealt with at the professional health-care level: namely, the possibility of a clinical condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Reports of Tonya experiencing child abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse and spousal abuse are probably not exaggerated.

The drinking and the rage may find explanations through environment and genetics. So may her unfortunate love map. But ultimately there is in Tonya a lack of judgment. Naturally, one can't expect an 18-year-old to manifest a lot of judgment. But a 29-year-old? Surely in her more lucid moments Tonya must realize the folly of continuing down her present path. I wish I didn't have to write all this down for others to read; but it might as well come from me as from editors or news directors chasing circulation or ratings. Their spin tends to be quite different. I hope that now, with the spectre of a ruined future again before her eyes, Tonya will take her bags in hand and get out of Dogpatch once and for all.