the pulse

Repeat after me: I am not a homophobe. Done.

Can a man have the homophobe portion of his brain cleansed by going through a rehabilitation process? And what might that look like? Does he sit in a room while speakers pump in: "Gay people are really cool. … Gay people are really cool. … Gay men are just like you and me. … Gay men are just like you and me. … All men are created equal, even men who like other men …"?

I'm just trying to figure out exactly what "rehab" means for a guy like Isaiah Washington, whose latest variation on the "f-word" targeting "Grey's Anatomy" co-star T.R. Knight on Golden Globe Awards night quickly devolved into the Slur Heard 'Round the World.

Let's start out here by identifying what's really going on, shall we? Washington is doing what current politically expedient custom requires him to do to save his job. The most apt analogy would be to a prison lifer who finds God while serving out his time to stave off a date with the lethal needle or inspire more lenient treatment while in the big house and/or greater compassion from a parole board.

This isn't to say that prison inmates don't legitimately find religion and that men with homophobic tendencies don't see the error of their hateful and prejudicial ways minus a certain assistance. But in the overwhelming preponderance of cases, there hangs a transparent butt-salvaging motive that drives the nascent enlightenment.

Given this fact, the point of most showbiz rehab nonsense seems to be more of the same smoke-and-mirrors MO that drives the industry itself. It supplies the penance the public seems to require of their screen icons. In 2006, at least one celebrity entered rehab every month except November — Wynonna Judd for food addiction, Rush Limbaugh for painkillers, Keith Urban and Robin Williams for booze, Michael Richards for racist comments.

What is racist rehab? That would be getting therapy for spouting a notorious racial slur repeatedly from a comedy club stage. One would imagine that in Richards' case, that means talking about his own seeming bitterness borne of being forever typecast as Cosmo Kramer. If I'm that therapist, I tell him that's not the worst problem a man can have, frankly, and to please hand over $1 million for this sage wisdom.

Make no mistake, celebrity rehab is just another quick-fix illusion in the Age of Impatience. When a simple apology won't do, the damage-control spinmeisters prescribe ducking into an image makeover program for a few months until the coast is clear — re-emerging purportedly "healed."

Issues of character are, unfortunately, rarely so simple to mend. So why do organizations like the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation play along with Washington when he appears simply to be using it to prop up his own restoration campaign? Because it helps the group's own mission to have a star purportedly see the error of his ways and do an about-face, however insincere the message or self-serving the motive.

What's reasonably certain is that the inpatient psychological counseling that Washington entered into last week was designed as an effective hedge against unemployment and perhaps nothing more.

When your discriminatory behavior and ill-chosen words place the television job that made you a star into severe jeopardy, it's remarkable how quickly you're inspired to want to join hands with your gay brothers and sisters and sing "Kumbaya."

But please, this isn't about seeing the light so much as glimpsing the dark and realizing it's much tougher to find and keep a job when one's vision is impaired.
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