The Florida Keys provide a stunning natural backdrop for the Sony-Netflix series "Bloodline." (Photo of the Keys by Anthony C. LoBaido)

The Florida Keys provide a stunning natural backdrop for the Sony-Netflix series “Bloodline.”
(Photo of the Keys by Anthony C. LoBaido)

Pharmakeia – from the Ancient Greek, sorcery, magical arts, often found in connection with idolatry and fostered by it.

Florida, sometimes referred to as “America’s basement,” is home to varied people ranging from good old boys waiving rebel flags to Haitians, Cubans, retirees and everyone in between. The Seminole Indians were never defeated in battle by the United States military. The talented Florida State University Seminole football team carries on their warrior spirit amid the political correctness of the 21st century.  The Everglades, beloved by many, are a national treasure. The beaches of Miami, Disney World and Major League spring training are all synonymous with the Sunshine State. The hit series “Burn Notice” was based in Florida, and the moving story arc reminded many viewers how far television has evolved since the days of “Miami Vice.”

Enter a new ancillary cultural product to “America’s Basement.” “Bloodline” is a series on Netflix produced in cooperation with Sony. Season 2, which began May 27 of this year, promises to be a blockbuster event for fans of the series. Take a look at the Wall Street Journal’s review of “Bloodline” right here.

bloodlineThe basic premise of this excellent yet disturbing series revolves around a seemingly nice family living in the Florida Keys. They own a prestigious resort. One of the sons, John Rayburn, (adroitly played by actor Kyle Chandler) works with the local sheriff’s department. You might remember Chandler from “Super 8” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” where he starred alongside Leonardo Dicaprio.

But life in the Florida Keys not all as it seems. There’s the death of a very young sibling we don’t fully understand. The parents not only drink alcohol with their children at the resort, but also take drugs with them. Imagine the mother, Sally (played by Sissy Spacek, whom we came to love in the epic “Coal Miner’s Daughter”), getting high with her own son, the troubled “Danny.” The Danny character is played by the talented Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn.

Do you personally know people like this – parents who push alcohol on their children, who already have drug and alcohol problems? Perhaps this is why “Bloodline” is so successful as it tears away at postmodern reality. There are fathers out there buying ecstasy for their own children. If you were to call your bookie, would you place a bet that such a family would turn out for the better? If you were to watch “Bloodline,” you’d probably feel like you knew at least some of them in real life. The United States is a country in bondage to drug and alcohol abuse. The statistics could take a tome to document. But sheer numbers don’t do this issue justice.

A home flooded with alcohol can soon turn into a home flooded with illegal drugs. Even the smallest use of cocaine is a life-threatening event as it overwhelms the heart with adrenaline. Remember the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Alcohol can be a weapon of self-destruction. Drugs and alcohol make things worse and worse until finally so many bad things happen, to so many people, so many times, that you begin to think of it as “normal.” Yet it’s anything but. A dark cloud emerges as “the blues are in the air.” And the thing is, trying to put the drug and alcohol genie back into the proverbial bottle is almost impossible once it has been opened, even into old age.

In the case of “Bloodline,” Danny, the troubled son, has returned home from Miami. Now he’s working at his parents’ resort again and soon he begins transferring massive amounts of cocaine between points A and Z. He hides the cocaine at the resort. That means the DEA is now monitoring his entire family very closely. The DEA has a “watch list.” Not only is Danny on it, but his friends are, too. Does the family know? Do the siblings? Do the parents? The answer is that no one knows. The Kyle Chandler character of John Rayburn has warned the family that Danny is no good. But he keeps hoping Danny will change for the better. Eventually John Rayburn finds out that the DEA is onto Danny and the whole family. This is really shocking for him.

There’s another brother, Kevin (played by actor Norbert Leo Butz), and he drinks, gets drunk, sleeps with Danny’s pretty blonde nurse girlfriend Chelsea (played by Chloë Sevigny) and does cocaine. The way “Bloodline” depicts Kevin doing cocaine is simply amazing. He looks like he’s playing the part for real. If he’s not on drugs, he should get an Emmy.

Of course, the alcohol-fueled binge drinking is also a dominant theme. Rarely is there a scene in “Bloodline” where someone doesn’t need a drink or already have a drink in hand. We are reminded what the Bible says, through the famous Jewish thinker King Solomon, about alcohol: “Look at how it sparkles in the glass … but alas, it bites like a viper.” And “I will seek it again.” (Addiction could mean you are seeking the same thing again and again.) We are warned to stay away from “heroes of mixing drinks.” We’re told we’ll feel like we’ve been beaten and robbed and tossed to and fro on the high seas. There’s the vomiting and headaches, too.

Physiologically we know alcohol attacks the blood chemistry. It attacks the moral center of the mind. People become drunk and vulgar. They ruin family events while drinking too much – even Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, your wedding party and perhaps even a baptism. But sometimes you have to give people the rope to hang themselves. Maybe they will change, but most likely not. In America, we have freedom, and freedom is a good thing. In Saudi Arabia alcohol is forbidden, but people still drink and get drunk. I saw this with my own two eyes. The cutting off of heads and hands is not a fully functional deterrent. Because there’s not supposed to be alcohol in Saudi Arabia, you cannot find help from Al-Anon. That means women and families must suffer in silence at the hands of drunken men and husbands.

That said, freedom without morality and normalized values can be dangerous. Billy Sunday railed against beer in the early decades of the 20th century. Imagine what he’d be saying today.

If a home, or in this case, a beautiful resort in the Florida Keys, is a place where the parents get drunk and take drugs, and do so along with their children, then how will their children turn out? Parents who continually push alcohol on their children open up a wide path to destruction. They may not even be aware of it. Maybe their own parents pushed alcohol on them, and this is all a part of a “generational curse.” It’s supposed to be so much fun. The dangers are hidden at first, but they always come out. Pharmakeia is an ill-defined word that can take on many meanings. Where there’s drug and alcohol abuse running over the course of several generations, one might indeed find some kind of curse, generational or otherwise.

That’s true for Meg, played by actress Linda Cardellini. She is pretty, had lots of boyfriends, always “traded up,” and got the right degree. (She does not take drugs, thankfully.) She’s also a lawyer. She is going to marry a nice Cuban man who also works for the sheriff’s office. His name is Marco. But Meg is cheating on Marco. And soon Marco finds out. Marco does not know how lucky he is, meaning to escape being lured into a marriage under false pretenses with a family that’s deeply in bondage to drug and alcohol abuse. This kind of misleading scenario could happen to any of us. (Again, this is why the broad story arc of “Bloodline” is so appealing.)

Now bitter, Marco is working with the DEA to seal Danny’s fate, and the fate of Danny’s family. And Meg, through her sexual immorality, has ruined her future with Marco.

Can you imagine being like Danny – 40 years old or older and still getting drunk, still taking drugs and still bringing drugs into your parents’ house? Can you imagine being on a DEA watch list along with your very lost “friends?” Parents who get drunk with their children can’t demand respect because they don’t command respect. It’s open season their house for drug use.

Dawn breaks in the Florida Everglades. Florida's natural beauty is legendary across the United States and around the world (Photo by Anthony C. LoBaido)

Dawn breaks in the Florida Everglades. Florida’s natural beauty is legendary across the United States and around the world (Photo by Anthony C. LoBaido)

It is at this point that the notion of leadership decapitation comes into play in “Bloodline.” The other children in the Rayburn family decide that someone will have to be eliminated. Yes, in the end, the children decide Danny has to die. Hence their mantra, “We’re not bad people, we just did a bad thing.”

Why? Well, the DEA is closing in. The DEA wants to take over the resort because of the drugs being held there. This is chilling. What’s amazing about “Bloodline” is that the family is able to kill off Danny right under the nose of the DEA.

Meanwhile, some of the Rayburn children go to Miami and investigate Danny’s life there. He’s been mailing money back to Miami, in cash, to himself. They find a good-looking redhead in Miami who is Danny’s ex-girlfriend. She is waiting for Danny to come back.

But the decision has been made, and the course has been chosen. Danny is summarily executed. His body is put on a boat and set on fire in the pouring rain. Someone else will be framed for the killing. John Rayburn is a policeman after all, and he’s put together a plan to cover it up.

Yet just when you think the story is over, Danny’s son shows up. He seems to be a troubled young man of about 16 or so. This is how Season 1 comes to an end. If Danny’s son had shown up carrying a colostomy bag, the audience couldn’t have been any more shocked.

“Bloodline” is one of the best series on Netflix, AMC or HBO. “Breaking Bad,” “House of Cards,” “Hell on Wheels” and other series like “Burn Notice,” “Jericho,” “The Walking Dead,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Supernatural,” “Heroes,” “The X Files,” “Californication,” “Shameless,” “Banshee,” “Weeds,” “Life,” “Orange is the New Black,” “The Leftovers,” “Carnivale” and “True Detective” all are interesting in their own ways – but “Bloodline” can stand its own ground against all of them.

The moral of “Bloodline” could be that godless parenting produces godless children. King Solomon said, “It is better to have no children than godless children.” Drugs and alcohol bring a loss of respect and a loss of strength. There’s no future in it. You might as well be drinking Liquid Plumber.

Drug and alcohol abuse also fosters families that cannot communicate normally. That’s one of the problems the Rayburn’s have in “Bloodline.” They are not truly close. They may say a lot of words, and they may love each other, but everyone isn’t always honest. Everyone isn’t on the same page. It’s not about love per se; it’s about effective communication styles. Their relationships don’t work. There is a lot of verbal and emotional and physical abuse. All of us know such people and such families.

Because of human biology, no one is safe or immune from the influences of drugs and alcohol if they walk down a path with those twin-headed snakes. If one were to address the effects of LSD, mescaline, ecstasy and mushrooms on teenagers, one might find that it leads to permanent infantilization. You’ll find men and women in their 40s who still act like they’re trapped in their teen years. If all of your romantic relationships revolved around drug and alcohol abuse, you won’t know how to have a normal relationship with your spouse. You won’t be able to love, honor, cherish and nurture. Instead, you’ll be offering thousands of tantrums and insults, breaking down weeping and a general state of brokenness as “the past is prologue.” Husbands and wives need to be inspired, not demoralized. Children need to be led, not misled.

And, of course, since “Bloodline” is more or less an ancillary cultural product of Hollywood, no one ever prays during Season 1. Not even one time. No one ever goes to church. There’s no Bible to be read. The god they pray to is money, esteem, prestige, drugs, alcohol, careerism and sexuality. If there were 100 kilos of cocaine in your house and the DEA was closing on for a raid, wouldn’t you say a few prayers?

One of the very worst moments in the series comes when the character played by Kyle Chandler gets drunk at a bar with Danny. When he comes home, John Rayburn’s own children see him drunk.

As my late mother, Viola, often said, “It is a terrible, terrible thing for children to have to endure the disgrace, in public and/or in private, of seeing their parents drunk.”

The loss of respect the character (John Rayburn) played by Kyle Chandler experiences in this scene from his son and daughter was very hurtful to watch, even as a dramatization. The look on the children’s faces says it all.

Danny is like a bomb waiting to go off, and he ruins many of the family’s social events with his deviant, anti-social behavior. Having one or several family members who are like a ticking time bomb because of their drinking always brings a dark cloud to what should be a fun event. Yet how can things not go wrong if people are drinking to excess? They could experience blackouts or “missing time,” and even sociopathic behavior.

Some believe that alcohol abuse is a social disease in that it destroys social constructs. If you finish up an event or holiday by losing respect for those in attendance, based on their drunken behavior, then it is more than just a personal issue. This could happen to any of us if we get drunk. And once you lose respect for someone, you can’t love them any longer as you once did.

That said, if you were to factor out alcohol, drugs and sexual immorality, probably 85 percent of the problems people have would disappear. We are all sinners, and even if we get drunk or take drugs or anything bad like that, God will forgive us. In my own life, I have met people like a man named Rasheed, a nice African-American man who took many drugs in the 1960s, but has since become a very fine drug counselor in California. His grandson is now a United States Marine. Because of his drug use during the Woodstock era, Rasheed did not go to fight in the Vietnam War. He felt he lost out on the chance to develop his character and find honor and glory. Having spent much of my life in southeast Asia, including Cambodia and Laos, I told him, “There is no glory … only blood and death … you might have stepped on a land mine.”

Between Thailand and North Korea, I worked with and interviewed former heroin (and other drug) traffickers who know the terrain of Myanmar and Laos. These traffickers have helped persecuted North Korea Christians and other dissidents make an 8,000 mile trek to freedom. God has used the knowledge gained in their former sinful lives to make a positive impact. My mother also used to say, “Anthony, there is more joy in heaven for one sinner who repents than for 1,000 righteous.”

“Bloodline” will haunt viewers for a long, long time. Yet something really good can come out of watching this series.

First, as parents, we can be good examples to our spouses and children. We can try to lead them in a good direction. We can see the dangers of alcohol and drugs. We can understand why God says, “No drunkard will inherit the Kingdom of God.” These are sobering words indeed. The decision to not drink any alcohol at all is not one to be taken lightly. Eschewing alcohol totally is a Nazarite vow, which Samson of old took, and he failed in this vow. As such, he wound up in a prison in Gaza with his eyes put out, doing the work of a mule. He did not know that “the spirit of the Lord had departed from him.”

We can learn much about alcohol from Samson, namely how alcohol deprives men of their health, their physical power and even their moral strength. Yet Samson yearned for freedom. His mission in life was leadership decapitation of the Philistines, and in the end he achieved that. If we are honest about the problems of drugs and alcohol, admit there’s a problem, and don’t blame others for the problem, then a new and better path can be opened. However, usually people will get bitter and not better if they are challenged. Not always though. We must be positive and have hope. We can care for others and inspire them. We can say, “You never have to be drunk again!”

But those who threaten our families and children with drugs like LSD, mushrooms, acid, ecstasy, heroin and other illegal substances just might find themselves in real trouble. They might even be executed, at least according to Netflix and “Bloodline.” At the very least, we can say that people who give drugs to our children and bring drugs into our homes are not “good family friends.”

How did things get this way? Between 1875 and 1947, there was a Satanist, Aleister Crowley, who held the title of, “the most evil man in the world.” Crowley said basically that in future decades, things that were considered evil during the Great Depression in the 1930s would become normalized. Clearly we have already reached that point.

For now, the ideas behind “Bloodline,” namely a generational curse, should show us how drugs play a large role in what the late Pope Jean Paul II called, “The culture of death.” Long ago the ancient prophets of the Bible wrote, “I have set before you life and death … blessing and cursing … therefore choose life, so both thou, and thy seed, may live …” For now we are left with the postmodern warning of “Bloodline.” You can watch the Season 2 trailer here.


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