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Papa and Daughter

All over the papers are Mackenzie Philips allegations that she had an incestuous relationship with her father Papa John Phillips of the 60s harmony group the mamas and the Papas. For the sake of this post we are going to assume the allegations are true and that the punchline isn’t Mackenzie’s claim that her father was full of love and sick with drugs but that he was the poster boy for the dark side of the baby boomers.
I’ll get to that but start with the question of consensual incest, a subject I feel comfortable discussing as I have no children to weird out. By consensual I mean an agreement between two adults and I think that within limits anything two adults do together is nobodies business except theirs. However, are there limits? A couple of years back there was a story of a homosexual man in germany who met another man on a gay web site and wanted the person to consume his body parts while the man was still alive, and then finish by consuming his entire body when he was dead. This was consensual and it was also illegal though the question remains, do we have the right to end our own life and do we have the right to ask somebody else to help us with it? The law says no we don’t but I disagree with the law, I don’t see where the crime arises.
Though Mackenzie claims the first time she had sex with her Papa she was so drugged up she could not make a decision when she confronted her father a couple of months later he felt he had done nothing wrong and they began a ten year relationship. Let’s take a look at where the crime lies in incest. According to the King James Old Testament, Moses was married to his half-sister and there are incidents of incest through out the books of the Bible although God banned it in Levitticus. So Christianity changed its mind. Any form of sex between a child and an adult is illegal and immoral and if it is a family member, especially someone in authority over you, it is worse. Children of family members -certainly siblings or parents with their children, has a great chance of resulting in mentally damaged children and is wrong. But what about fathers with their adult daughters? The other complaint is that incest is socially restrictive as it doesn’t allow the peoples of a nation to diversify and broaden –it is, in a word, anti-social: true, but hardly my idea of illegal.

I have never heard of a successful incestuous father-daughter love affair, even if the woman is nineteen, even if she is twenty-nine, a breach of trust has been broken and the results are disastrous. ButMackenzie Phillips, who had been shot up with cocaine by her father when she was still in her teens, was already a train wreck and her father was absolutely to blame. It was the drugs and not the incest that harmed Mackenzie, or rather, the drugs were the gateway to the incest.
Which leads us to the dead and buried Papa John and the baby boomers. In an earlier post I mentioned Lyle Lovett noting that his parents post-WWII were forced to do with their lives what they had to do with their lives so Lyle could do with his life what he wanted to do with his life. Papa John was the driving force behind the hugely popular Mamas and the Papas and as such in the midst of the sixties had no limitations upon him, when he wanted the sixteen year old Michelle Phillips he divorced Mackenzie’s mother and married Michelle. A good looking pop star in a society that not only worshipped stardom but were breaking the shackles of Puritanism (or at least Protestantism) never heard the word no. Let’s forget the question of incest for a moment: he shot his daughter up with cocaine!!!
Let’s agree that everything we know as morality is lies and go back to the beginning. Apes (indeed all animals except homosapiens) practise incest. It isn’t wrong for other animals and though the effects are generally disastrous for us, my caveats appear above and I stick to them. That’s fine as far as it goes but what excuses pumping deadly poison into your teenage daughters arm? In goes contrary to our internal wiring -it isn’t immoral, it is insane. But then again, Papa John Phillips was a raving lunatic. According to Wikipedia “His father was a retired United States Marine Corps officer who won an Oklahoma bar from another Marine in a poker game on the way home from France after WW2. His mother was a Cherokee Indian his father met in Oklahoma. According to his autobiography, Papa John, Phillips’ father was a heavy drinker who suffered from poor health.” That sentence is act one in the story of Mackenzie’s disastrous life. It has the outlines of the parents whose children like John Phillips and Jimi Hendrix, David Crosby and Grace Slick , had no idea as to where the limits lay in their life(style). The greatest generation gave and the baby boomers took and if life is about the advancement of a civilisation that taking lead to women’s rights, black equality, safety for homosexuals but it also lead to an inability to be said no to and equally a Caliguan society of rapaciousness.
Reading the Mamas and Papa’s story today is hardly shocking but it isn’t Miss Manners either: think of Fleetwood Mac with Mama Michelle playing Stevie Nicks role in a sexual roundelay with toot the drug of choice. Mackenzie was three when John left her mother for Mama Michelle and she was twelve when she filmed the role of Carol in the seminal teen movie American Graffiti and fourteen when it was released pushing into the world of instant fame over and above having one of the most famous fathers imaginable. So like her father, she couldn’t be said no to, and like her grandfather, she was highly susceptible to intoxicants.
There is a cultural pendulum that swings in each direction and the result of the end of mass scale sexual hypocrisy as proselytised by Protestantism and Christianity was a swing to a culture that preached free love but nothing is free and the dreams of a free society were utopian and we all know how close that is to dystopia. John Phillips wrote in his song “San Francisco”: “For those who come to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair, if you come to San Francisco, summertime will be a love-in there”. Of course, if you actually went to San Francisco what you would’ve found w
ere acid freaks and teens graduating from opium to heroine (Hi, Jerry Garcia) bumming cigarettes and quarters before calling daddy for plane fare home.
What did Phillips care? It was true for him and when it came to his lovely daughter Mackenzie, John made it true for her. A daydream of life without consequences. When what she needed was a good spanking what she got was shot up with coke. In a famous Doonesbury strip Garry Trudeau had a character say “The world needs grown ups” but the sixties pop stars -and today’s pop stars- are in the business of not growing up and if the casualties of the greatest generation doing what they had to do so the baby boomers can do what they want to do is the John Phillips, the victim is the Mackenzie Phillips. It doesn’t matter if they had consensual incest, the damage was earlier and longer lasting and it has made a USA without adults -we are all rock stars. Look at a picture of Mackenzie in American Graffiti -this is the face of the death of the sixites.

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