Standing In The Gap Of The Real And Perceived
On Monday, reporters pelted Congressman Anthony Weiner in a hail of different versions of the same question at the end of his statement revealing his culpability in sending lewd pictures and suggestive messages through social networks to a half a dozen young women. Over and over, and sometimes simultaneously, press members asked him to explain the motivation behind his indiscretions.
He basically said he had no reason, and kept repeating that he was very sorry – to his family, coworkers, constituents, and friends. At several points in his statement, he choked up and struggled to stay composed. He did say that his lies about his actions were borne out of humiliation and a desire to protect his family. He offered no justification whatsoever for his online activities, however. Congressman Weiner clearly prostrated himself before an international audience. Short of self-immolation and disembowelment, there was nothing more he could do publicly to express his remorse and regret.
And what is the response of the American press and public? Phallic humor played on Congressman Weiner’s surname. A scavenger hunt, a clamor to bury a man in even more of his own vomit. A gutless abandonment by all of his peers.
And here is the shame of it all. Three hunters go out for a weekend, and one of them steps into his own bear trap. So what do the other two do? Why, of course, they go get all of their neighbors, and let go the dogs loose to finish him off while they watch. And at least half of these were giving him the thumbs up a month ago. Now they’re just as enthusiastic to feel the blood spatter their clothes.
Whether or not we, as a nation, are smarter than fifth graders can be debated, but one thing is for sure: we are certainly no more mature. We cackle convulsively, and then, when we run out of breath and ours sides hurt, we may stop to consider.
Recent history is replete with men who railed against the immorality of others, or men who seemed to have a perfect wife and a perfect life, only to be found out later to have fallen short of their own professed standards or public personas. Mark Foley, anyone? Billy Joel? Ted Haggard? Arnold Schwarzenegger? John Edwards? Harrison Ford? Eliot Spitzer? Kevin Costner? Jim McGreevey? Jesse James? Woody Allen? Need I go on?
And they’re not just the superstars. They’re us. We know them. The brilliant middle-aged pastor, husband, and father who parses the Word with unparalleled wisdom, wit, and grace, only to inexplicably throw it all to the wind for a new life, he thinks, with a nubile, college-age piece of ass. The nearly retired fundraising executive for an orphanage, himself a product of the institution, married for 40 years and having emptied the nest, suddenly charged and convicted of having fondled the preteen daughter of unsuspecting longtime friends. I could go on, but I won’t.
So, the media asked in bewilderment, how could Weiner do these things? Well, Congressman Weiner’s problem is a common one. I don’t know him personally, so I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt. I’d like to assume his desire to be a man of personal honor, to be a man who is faithful to his wife, and to be a man who would make his mother proud. But Congressman Weiner had to fight an appeal to his basest of instincts that didn’t exist before 20 years ago: the Internet. And in that, he is not exactly alone, is he?
Tomorrow, we’ll consider how this development has fundamentally changed the game of sexual temptation for men.