Yet another public figure has been compromised by a sex scandal. Will there ever be an end to such? If past human experience is a reliable indicator, no.
I am an avid reader of history, and as such, I spend a lot of time in biographies, and chronicles of empires and nations. As any half attentive Sunday school student knows, the inability to channel and control the carnal appetite has been the ruin of many a “great man,” from Judah to David and Solomon. The reader of history knows that other prominent individuals came to grief due to their inability to curb their desires – Alexander, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, a host of Kennedys, LBJ, and William Jefferson Clinton, to name a few.
Whenever a prominent person gets caught in his indiscretions, the reaction seems to split along predictable lines: the “boys will be boys” crowd vs. the “thou shalt nots.” No doubt, the silent majority in this drama are the “There, but for the grace of God, go I’s.”
Few of us can imagine the temptations that the rich and powerful must endure. It has long been known than most legends about aphrodisiacs are just that: legends. There are two well-known female aphrodisiacs, however, time-honored and proven: wealth and power. It is easy for those of us who have never possessed either to be judgmental toward those who do. Would we have the fortitude and strength of character to resist the temptations to which these men are subjected daily? A friend postulates that any man is capable of anything given the right combination of opportunity and enticement. He may be right, but we’ll never know for sure, so I’ll turn my attention from the rich and powerful to those people I know – the common man and woman.
It occurs from time to time in print – as recently as 2/12/09 in the pages of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, wherein the readers of “Dear Abby” were treated to this piece of wisdom: “Infidelity is painful, but it is possible to recover from it, heal a marriage, and emerge stronger than ever as a couple.”
(Pardon me for a moment, while I gag.)
“Recover”? Well, yeah, I guess so – to an extent.
“Heal a marriage?” It depends on what you mean by “heal.” If in the sense of an infection completely run its course, and a body cured, no. It’s more like the chicken pox. External symptoms may abate, but the virus remains in the bloodstream – ever ready to emerge in a new and painful affliction at any time, like shingles.
“Stronger than ever as a couple?” Pure and unadulterated (pun acknowledged) wistful thinking. Infidelity never fails to poison the well of marital trust and bliss. Trust once shattered can never be completely regained. Resentment resurges unbidden at unpredictable moments, triggered by any number of associations of betrayal stored in the subconscious.
The worst effect of infidelity may be that pride and joy in the spouse are irrevocably compromised. For the offended party, cynicism replaces idealism, and suppressed anger replaces joy. “Stronger than ever?” You wish. One partner may humble the other and increase his power in the marriage at the expense of the offended spouse, but I will never believe that playing the whore ever improved any marriage – any time, any place. You stray, you’re damaged goods, forever.
So what is my take on the plight of those who stray? Simple. It’s profound sadness for all concerned. It cheapens the institution of marriage. It threatens the family. It undermines the confidence of society in the sanctity of vows and the possibility of human faithfulness to an ideal, an institution, and to one’s self. It is particularly tragic if children are involved.
I take no pleasure in the discomfiture of those compromised – whether a promising young light such as Tiger Woods, a lecherous drunk like Sen. Kennedy, or a pompous gas bag like President Clinton. When one man suffers such a failure, we’re all cheapened by it. Let’s not stone them, but let’s not pretend that it’s of no importance. It is important. After all, if a man’s own family cannot trust him, then who can?
Columnist Sonny Scott lives in the Sparta community in Chickasaw County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.