Monday, October 26, 1998

Week of 10/26/1998

Do You REALLY Want To Know?
Should politicians have a personal life?
- by David Matthews 2

Picture this scene sometime in the near future:

Dateline: Washington DC - The political world was shocked to learn that Senator Joseph Blow of Tennessee had once engaged in a sexual activity. The two-term Republican was embarrassed to admit that he had engaged in sexual intercourse, but he said he was young and foolish.

"I cannot lie about my actions," Blow said in his speech. "I did engage in a sexual act, but it was with my wife and it was to fulfill my marriage obligations to her. However, I have since abstained from any kind of sexual activity."

Blow’s admittance of sexual intercourse is the latest in a string of allegations between him and his Democratic contender, Charlie "Hip" O’Cryte. Hip O’Cryte is the leader of the conservative-conservative group "Families Against Sex in Tennessee." Speaking from his campaign headquarters, the leader of FAST called Blow a disgrace to the state.

"It’s time we recognize that sexual activity, even between man and wife, is a sign of ultimate degradation in society. It pains me to know that such a perverted man can think he can serve the just and moral people of this great state!"

Hip O’Cryte continued to deny allegations, however, that he himself engaged in solo sexual activity in his youth, claiming that he has a right to privacy about his juvenile past.

Sounds a bit absurd, doesn’t it?

Well it should, but that is the pattern we will be heading towards in the political arena!

As the sex-and-lies scandal that is the Clinton Administration continues in its soap opera zeal, politicians are engaging in a form of damage control, making sure that their own closets are clean of any similar skeletons.

Not everyone is escaping this sexual witch hunt intact, however. Three Republicans in Congress were revealed to having extramarital affairs in their pasts. This outraged members of Congress, not for the affairs, but rather that the probe into such activity was starting to include them.

So now the question has surfaced - Should politicians be entitled to a private life?

Europeans think so. Many Europeans cannot understand why we Americans are so obsessed with the President’s sex life. They think that the President should be left alone when it comes to his sexual past, and any affairs should be a matter left between him and his wife.

But too many Americans say that they are entitled to know what a politician does while he or she is serving the public. Their rationality is that a politician serves the public trust 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and as such, they must be constantly under scrutiny, and that the public is entitled to know what that politician is doing at all times.

Folks, this is just sheer and utter lunacy! How much of a politician’s personal life are we expected to know? If we feel entitled to know whether or not the politician in question is faithful to his wife, why not also know how often he engages in sexual activity with his wife? After all, if he isn’t pleasing her, she may be engaging in an extramarital affair of her own! And isn’t THAT just as scandalous?

And adultery isn’t the only "immoral" activity that certain social crusaders abhor. How about drinking? Maybe we should find out what kind of drinks our politicians partake in. And where. And how many.

While we’re in their kitchen, why not check the fridge to see what kind of food our politicians eat. After all, their pantries are stocked with food paid for with our tax money, right? We don’t want to have our politicians die because of poor health, do we?

Great, now we have ourselves determining if our elected officials eat the right kind of bran muffins for breakfast. Happy now? Maybe we should check his bowel movements while we’re at it, huh? Any volunteers from our neo-Orwellian crusaders?

Let’s be brutally honest here. Moralists who feel they need to know every aspect of a politician’s personal life don’t want to stop with that politician. Many moralists, especially those who consider themselves social conservatives, do not believe that ANYONE deserves a personal life, never mind a politician. All they need is an excuse to pry into people’s lives. It doesn’t matter if that excuse is for "family" or "God" or "country," if they can use it, they’ll be peering through your windows and into your bedrooms in a heartbeat.

On the other hand, it is the very hypocrisy of our politicians that have caused some of the most abhorrent actions in the name of "protecting families" and "preserving America." The ink was barely dry on the First Amendment when Congress and the White House violated it with the Alien and Sedition Act. Americans abhorred the actions of Nazi Germany against those they considered "undesirable," but were quick to intern all Japanese-Americans during the start of World War II. And more recently, Congress joyously voted to allow the Kenneth Starr Report to go online on their own servers, while at the same time voted to ban similar material from going online freely on commercial servers. When it comes to hypocrisy, you’ll find the US Government as a shining example of it.

So where should we draw the line?

Personally, I think that a politician, like anyone else, DESERVES a personal life that should be their own. When they’re not on the stump, they should deserve to live their lives as they see fit, just like we expect of ourselves. The same too for celebrities. If they invite us into their bedrooms, that’s one thing. But otherwise let them enjoy their life outside the limelight.

But there’s one caveat: If they decide to use their position to act as a judge of other people’s behavior, they had best be living up to their preaching! You want to talk about family values, you’d better not have any past mistresses lying in wait. You want to talk about the sanctity of marriage, you best not have any ex-spouses in wait. You want to talk about "addictive substances," you better have your own vices in check!

Conservatives and moralists may not like the brief public scrutiny into their personal lives, but in many cases it is an effect of their own creation. Those who feel it is their right and their role to peer into the personal lives of others must realize that their own lives would be scrutinized as well.

The moralists apparently have forgotten a little passage from a certain carpenter’s son: "Judge not, lest you be judged."

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