Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bad Posture and Bad Posturing: Stooped and Stupid

posture |ˈpäs ch ər|
noun: a position of a person's body when standing or sitting
verb: [ intrans. ] [often as n. ] ( posturing) behave in a way that is intended to impress or mislead others

Jimmy Stewart had good posture. Tall and lanky, he always carried himself proudly and effortlessly. His posturing in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington remains an American classic, the tale of Everyman taking on corruption in Government.

My how times have changed. There has been much posturing coming out of Washington D.C. and Columbia, South Carolina over the past week or so. Senator John Ensign of Nevada and Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, both stalwart proponents of family values and the sanctity of marriage (particularly when worrying about same sex couples wanting to join the sacred ranks), have been forced to admit to behavior that they publicly refused to tolerate in others.

It made me realize that when one’s posture begins to suffer, there is a tendency to looked stooped. When one’s posturing suffers the fate of public servants Ensign and Sanford, there is a tendency to look stupid.

Judging from press coverage driven by the perception that the public gives a rat’s patootie about the details, I am one of the few people in America that did not care to share the contents of Governor Sanford’s intimate e-mail exchange. When I started writing this, I was under the impression that the Governor had fallen for his Argentine paramour like a lovesick adolescent. Not wanting to be judgmental about affairs of the heart, and not being privy to the condition of his marital relationship, I refused to fault him for giving in to the emotional pull of newly found love. After all, when an irresistible force such as hers meets an old immovable object like him, you can bet, as sure as you live, something’s gotta give, something’s gotta give, something’s gotta give.

Then the SOB acknowledged that he had regularly “crossed the line” when on road trips with his buddies, immediately switching his image from being a hopeless romantic to a self-absorbed boor. And, as noted above, particularly in light of his past posturing about family values and the need for our public servants to set a proper example and his propensity for marching out his beautiful accomplished wife and four sons whenever it made sense for political purposes, he looks stupid.

His Republican colleague, Senator John Ensign looks even dumber. This paragon of virtue who, posturing, called on President Clinton to resign when his dalliances became public, was forced last week to confess that his marital vows were similarly modifiable when the Senator's hormones took control. Now that he, too, has traded civilized restraint and respect for his spouse for the carnal pleasures of the wife of one of his top aides, he’s adopted a different viewpoint on the propriety of resignation.

His pronouncements of trouble in his marriage that led to such behavior are besides the point. When you deem yourself worthy to stand tall and posture about the logical harsh consequences of immoral behavior by public officials, do not subsequently (?) stoop to entering into an adulterous affair with your close friend’s wife and wife’s close friend. You come across as stupid.

On the other hand, I suppose that if everyone experiencing strife in their marriage took that as a get out of “jail” free card and explored intimacy outside of the marital relationship it would, at least, demote the perceived threat posed by same sex couples to the one man/one woman contingent.

Certainly, this is not a partisan issue. But the hypocrisy of those who deem themselves worthy to preach and attempt to impose their alleged moral values on all of us, yet abandon their public principles at the batting of an eyelash (or the tapping of a shoe in a men’s restroom) is sickening and peculiar to social conservatives. You don’t see Barney Frank advocating for same-sex marriage and flying up to Nova Scotia to lose himself in the arms of a lobster heiress. More precisely, even when Barney Frank advocates for same-sex marriage, he adopts a live and let live posture, content to allow those who disagree to carry on in their own lives as they see fit.

So, dear social conservative friends, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Practice what you preach. And if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with, NOT!

And, finally, Governor Sanford, show some respect for the mother of your children and quit pining in public. Your continued public apologies, couched in excuses, are making matters worse. Being a man means more than flying to Buenos Aires to service your mistress after your wife pleads with you not to see her again. It means owning up to the hurt you've caused and hopes and dreams you've discarded and making amends to your family, if possible, quietly, sincerely and earnestly.


Elf said...

I try to picture how I'd have felt about my father if he'd had an affair with someone other than my mother. And if he had then rambled on about it in public. And if he had made a complete stoopid (sic) idiot of himself. It's unimaginable. How do children overcome this?

Anonymous said...

Oh, Sammy I don't know that hypocrisy regarding moral issues is the purview principally of social conservatives, it's just that the particular moral issues regarding which they display their hypocrisy vary among those of differing social views. The hypocrisy remains because hypocrisy is the necessary side effect of the principle activity in which politicians must -or at least do, engage: they lie convincingly.

That's why we elect them. It's not because they actually intend to keep their campaign promises. It's not even because they are even remotely like the portrait they carefully paint for us. We elect them in a sort of political theater in which we willingly suspend our disbelief. With that little help from us, we wind up with elected officials whose principle qualification is to lie convincingly. The more partisan we are, the easier it is for them.

In the end, we get people who can't possible avoid being hypocrites. They've spend time and limitless dollars telling us the things we want to hear; those things have little to do with who they are.

So Sanford carries on at great length about the sanctity of the family because it's what his constituents want to hear. But Joe Kennedy jr. flies about the country on private jets in order to spread the gospel of public transit, and Al Gore lectures endlessly about global warming while putting down a sasquatch-like carbon footprint.

Do any of them believe? Yes, I think they all, at some level, believe the messages they proclaim, and being a hypocrite doesn't make the message wrong, it just makes them lousy messengers.

Sam Stern said...

Dear Anonymous,
I focused on social conservatism because they tend to impose their will on individuals' personal life styles. Al and Joe may not always be walking the walk, but the issues they are so passionate about have widespread public consequences. I do not believe (and I recognize some disagree) that having a loving, committed same-sex couple in my neighborhood threatens my marriage or the fabric of society. Of course there are hypocrites on both sides of the aisle. Hell, Joe Lieberman has been there and back. It's okay to play the game and try to get your view of the best interests of society accepted and adopted. BUT where your view conflicts with individual freedoms that do not really harm or threaten the freedoms of others, be prepared to get pilloried if it turns out that your "strong beliefs" that, if adopted, would so trample on the rights of others turn out to be a working double standard.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't mean to engage in a protracted debate with you, but the effort to impose one's view on others is essentially what expansive government is all about, and it doesn't much matter what side of the spectrum is playing that game. The question of whether that effort is in service to things that limit the freedom of other unnecessarily is, I think a moving target, but generally speaking your construction begins from and relies upon the idea that the conservatives are wrong and the liberals right. The conservatives would claim that the social consequences of their pet peeves DO have the effect of impinging on others (I happen to think they're quite wrong, by the way. I am profoundly apathetic about the sex lives of others.) They, of course would also tell you that the liberal view that markets can't deal with resource allocation is also wrong.

For example, with regard to Gore and Kennedy, we need not even approach the question of whether they are addressing a real problem to understand that they seek solutions that are based on authoritatively imposed and that others might prefer a set of market based solutions. And while they eschew the idea of market based solutions, they do as they do because they HAVE the resources to do so. In other words, they LIVE a market based approach (including the Vatican-like buying and selling of indulgences for their environmental sins via carbon offsets) while they seek to impose an non-market approach.

But then I should probably disclose the following: I believe that partisanship and party loyalty do more to destroy human initiative, liberty, productivity and intellectual rigor than any other factor in our lives.