This week, in a 30 minute press conference that felt like 30 tortuous hours, New York Congressman Anthony Weiner confessed that the infamous "crotch shot" was indeed his. This after originally lying and suggesting that his email account had been hacked. The Congressman admitted that he had had flirtatious Internet relationships with about six women in which he sent sexually explicit pictures and text messages. Mr. Weiner stated that he has never met any of the women, plans to remain a representative and will stay with his wife.
Throughout the course of the past week, as the story began to unravel, I found myself riveted, not by Mr. Weiner but by those tenaciously focused upon him. After 20 years of marriage, and the second half of my life in swing, I often find myself staring at the forest, not just the tree. And I have witnessed two tendencies.
First, an eerie rabid dog fascination with the sex lives of others, particularly when it involves straying. This is not a new phenomenon, just a constant humming one, with the humming getting louder and the constant more frequent. This past Monday, the newspaper reports, the late night show jokes, the internet forum discussions and rumors came to a hushed denouement in a room packed with reporters and the "caught" choked up Congressman.
Second, moral jockeying by the politically righteous and obsessed. Left and right bickering over whose party members have been more licentious and puerile in their behaviors is escalating. "Mom she called me morally bankrupt!" "Dad he called me a sleazy hypocrite." "Yours did it with boys; at least mine didn't have sex!"
When others stumble, we glimpse not only their shortcomings but sometimes unwittingly reveal our own as we gawk and comment.
Much will be said about said about Mr. Weiner's moral failings --his arrogance and hubris fueled allegedly by the power politics cedes to its victors. But curiously, every day, a plumber, a brick layer, a drug store employee engages in the same behavior-- a brother, a best friend, a co-worker, a spouse-- and likely, he is neither powerful nor necessarily full of hubris. The human condition is full of compulsive despair.
It is a cliche to say I feel sorry for Mr. Weiner's family. I do. But mostly I feel sorry for us, lost in our glee and titillation.
(Donkey Image by River Girls Studio: In Three Languages, That Says Ass)
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