I thought I could keep mum on this one.
Wrong because this isn’t the first time. Wrong because it won’t be the last. It is, however, mystifying to me. It seems Mark Sanford is taking a run at Congress, and we seem to be fine with this.
Yes, Mark Sanford, former South Carolina governor of Dastardly Disappearance Fame followed by Sex Scandal and Soulful Mea Culpa, back in 2009. He’s throwing his hat into the political ring in a special election, the first round of which comes up in March.
Am I the only one who recalls his Last Tango Not In Paris?
What goes on behind closed doors – bedroom doors, that is – is not my business. At least, if you aren’t trying to impose your morality on my life, and your decisions don’t concern my future. For me, the particulars of who, what, when, and where are a private affair, as long as consenting adults are involved.
But when a governor drops out of sight for days, and lies about his whereabouts (badly, I might add) – to cover up a foreign fling, I say – different thing. And while four years have passed, all is not “forgiven.”
Ah, you might say. Is this any different than Bill and Monica?
Damn straight, it is. Bill didn’t go AWOL on the country’s dime.
But it was an affair of the heart, you say. He called his mistress his “soul mate.”
He’s engaged to the woman! It’s true love! He has his ex-wife’s blessing to run for office and if she forgives him, shouldn’t we?
I’m pursing my lips. I’m gritting my teeth. This isn’t about forgiveness; it’s about judgment. Don’t care who he sleeps with. Do care about hypocrisy!
Second Chances, Forgiveness Culture
Apparently the former governor is hoping for a second chance. Americans are kind and compassionate people, aren’t we? Don’t we love the concept of forgive and forget – or at least forgive?
According to the Daily Beast on Sanford’s run for Congress,
Before the scandal, Sanford was known as an unusually honest and self-effacing politician, and he says he understands the obligation to rebuild trust from the ground up… He peppers his conversation with phrases like “If I’m afforded this second chance,” acknowledging the need to admit to his mistakes if he ever hopes to move on.
Ah, but let’s not leave it there. Shall we throw some good old American godliness into the mix? Our pop culture propensity for misbehavior followed by earnest forgiveness?
The Daily Beast continues:
“I’m a sinner,” he [Sanford] said simply. “If you live long enough, you’re gonna fail at something… I failed very publicly, and yet what I learned in the wake of that failure is that there is a tremendous reservoir of God’s grace on a personal level and citizens’ grace on the public level.”
Do we think it’s okay that Mark Sanford wants back into politics because enough time has gone by for us to forget his misguided meanderings? Because it was love, and we all love love? Because we know that politicians lie and that’s part of the game?
I’m weary of our cultural tolerance (and encouragement?) of Same Old, Same Old, when it comes to hypocrisy, to self-interest in extremis, to using God and forgiveness as manipulative mantras, and discarding the tenets of reason (much less ethical behavior) when convenient.
And Arnold’s second coming? Are we waiting with baited breath?
It’s the memory loss that afflicts us as a nation that worries me most. How is it that we have such short memories when it comes to politics? Or the news in general, for that matter? For example, Sanford wants to”turn the spending train around” in Washington, D. C. and show his smart penny-pinching ways when it comes to government. But wasn’t he sanctioned for spending state monies to fund his travel expenses as he pursued his love life?
Oh right. We forgot.
More memory loss?
Yes, of course I’m thinking of last December’s horrific events at Sandy Hook, and all the events that preceded. I’m worried about our ability to remember – as a nation – that senseless violence requires that we reason, that we feel, that we speak out – and that we act.
I’m wondering about President Obama’s powers to persuade, much less our lengthy and convoluted political process. I’m concerned about his gun control agenda announced January 16, 2013 – and its chances of anything resembling eventual enactment, as proposals fight their way through Congress.
I think about that Congress. It all comes down to individuals and how they live their lives. Their ethics. Their beliefs. Their interests. These are individuals we vote for – by virtue of pushing a button, or letting others decide when we don’t show up. Individuals like Mark Sanford who references the Founding Fathers in his remarks on gun control, expressing that he prefers we be reticent and “slow” on this matter.
Should I check my cynicism or my hat – for the next spectacle that flashes across my not so silver screen?
Shall we all rise and gather hands? Shall we change that dial? May we return to our regularly scheduled programming, featuring anything but “Short Memory, Bad News,” sponsored by Politics as Usual?