A Tale of Two Sex Scandals
For a while, it was the best of times for both men.
One was fat, fair-skinned, and balding, seated on the throne of the IMF and heir apparent to the French presidency. The other was tall, tanned, handsome, and seated in the governor's chair in Sacramento.
One was from a country imbued with the image of the sophisticated seducer, a moneyed heir of the Enlightenment and the ideals of the Revolution of 1789 -- and the essence of all that is French, with the brutal sexuality of the Marquis de Sade providing a titillating dash of perversity.
The other, born to a poor family in post-WWII Austria, immigrated to the United States and later married into Kennedy royalty after having achieved his American dream of a bodybuilding and movie career, culminating in a Mr. Olympia winning streak and the classic Terminator series. He eventually muscled his way into a starring role in California's governor's mansion.
By now all know the strangely simultaneous stories of their worst of times. Dominique Strauss-Kahn is accused of the brutal sexual assault of a hotel maid, while Arnold Schwarzenegger has admitted fathering a lovechild with a household staff member some ten years ago.
Two sad tales.
What happened to bring matters to such a pass?
Both Strauss-Kahn and Schwarzenegger apparently became victims of the modern idea that one's sex life can be separated from one's professional life, that one can be a smooth (or rough) operator in the bedroom -- any bedroom with any given person -- while still being a clearheaded, dispassionate, and moral arbiter, be it in the global boardroom or the chambers of state governance.
But the Golden Rule, which summarizes the moral bases of all fidelities, personal and societal, cannot be compartmentalized. Any attempt to do so results in a schizophrenic division of morality similar to that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. As the fictionalized good doctor and now the real-life Strauss-Kahn and Schwarzenegger, along with countless others, have found to their sorrow, the lack of moral probity in one sphere leaks steadily and remorselessly into all other spheres of life, perhaps even most especially when it concerns sexuality. Sexual corruption seeps into and stains the soul, radically altering the whole person, proving that no one is ultimately free of the wretched results.
Roger Simon, screenplay writer and CEO of Pajamas Media, writes about his affair with a married woman, describing the lies and subterfuge involved as ultimately emotionally unendurable as well as corrupting of character:
I won't get into the sad details, but some time ago I had an affair with a married French woman -- I was single then -- that went on for a couple of years.
I'm not proud of it in the least. It was stupid, immoral (yes, that) and eventually sheer emotional Hell. Besides hurting other people, most of them innocent, it [...] made me a liar on frequent occasions. In sum, I was despicable, weak, selfish and destructive of myself and others to do it.
But I did learn something about the French [...] [T]here is nothing chic or hip about their adultery. After all the shared Gauloise and baiser volé, it's just cheating. People don't respect each other. People don't trust each other. Indeed, they begin to hate each other. Life is wretched. It's like a game of ritual self-and-other torture played out by a significant sector of their society -- particularly in the elite classes -- into oblivion.
C.S. Lewis, the great twentieth-century thinker, wrote about the results of continual surrender to sexual desire and the deleterious consequences in his small book Christian Behavior:
In the first place our warped natures, the devils who tempt us, and all the contemporary propaganda for lust, combine to make us feel that the desires we are resisting are so 'natural,' so 'healthy,' and so reasonable that it is almost perverse and abnormal to resist them [...] [But] surrender to all our desires obviously leads to impotence, disease, jealousies, lies, concealment, and everything that is the reverse of health, good humor, and frankness. For any happiness, even in this world, quite a lot of restraint is going to be necessary [...] Every sane and civilized man must have some set of principles by which he chooses to reject some of his desires and to permit others.
Lewis follows in the Christian and classical Greek philosophical traditions which see all desires, including sexual desire, as requiring moderation and containment if a person is to retain balance and attain the maturity necessary for a good life and good leadership. Adolescent lack of restraint of desires diminishes or completely destroys the person and society.
Sadly, too often we get a glimpse of how unrestrained sexuality destroys a person. Sometimes, alas, there is a close-up view of an aged person who for decades has chosen not to reject any of his sexual desires.
Away from the sexual propaganda of Hollywood, the seduction of airbrushed porn queens, the Photoshopped fantasies of Playboy and Hustler and the perennially young images promulgated by sex industries is an example: the ancient, wrinkled, and pathetic Hugh Hefner, an American heir of de Sade's championship of the unrestrained libido.
Hefner, the self-promoted architect of the sexual revolution, has dealt out and reveled in lies about uninhibited sensuality all his life, profiting handsomely from its relentless promotion. Would any sane and civilized person seriously contemplate the prospect of someone empathetic to and practicing Mr. Hefner's "ideals" leading a country -- in fact, would anyone seriously think such a person fit to lead anything? And, not incidentally, who among us does not also feel a profound pity for and sorrow over the clone-like, pneumatically enhanced Barbie doll wannabes clinging to the old Viagra-driven lecher's arm? Is theirs the sort of life that produces the great leaders our country so desperately longs for?
The answer, of course, is "No."
For all the ravages of the sexual revolution Mr. Hefner claims as his gift to the Western world, and for all the victims of the de Sade and Hefner sexual "freedoms" -- for all their own personal failings, most Americans still cherish the ideal of fidelity: fidelity to one's spouse, fidelity to one's faith, fidelity to one's nation.
There is an expectation, even a moral necessity, that powerful leaders of states and international organizations exhibit uprightness and personal sacrifice in all areas of life, especially in view of the perilous and demanding times in which we live. It is important to know our elected representatives and the leaders of international organizations as powerful as the IMF will be faithful in the managing of monies, faithful in crafting law, faithful in dispensing justice.
In sum, instead of the relentless promotion of emotion over reason and restraint, there should be a concerted effort to demolish the philosophies of de Sade and his ilk and more promotion of the ideals that led Sidney Carton, hero of A Tale of Two Cities, away from his life of alcoholism and debauchery to love and sacrifice. There should be more of the attitude that it is a far, far better thing to exercise sobriety, restraint and consideration of one's fellow human being, one's family, and one's nation.