Saturday, December 12, 2009

Falling off the Pedestal

I’m not one to pay much attention to the tabloids or think much about the lives and transgressions of celebrities, but with all the recent hoopla regarding Tiger Woods, it’s hard not to weigh in. It appears that he’s been a very, very bad boy. Does he have a right to privacy as he deals with his domestic problems? Absolutely, but unfortunately, he’s the one who put it out there for all to see and hear. If you go to lengths to showcase yourself as a squeaky clean family guy, and you’re having shenanigans on the side, there’s always a chance you’ll get busted.

But as Margaret Wente points out in her Globe article, In a case of lust over brains, a mighty Tiger becomes mortal, alpha males can’t seem to stop themselves from falling away from their well-intentioned morally driven lives. She believes that if the average male had the same opportunities (i.e. beautiful women throwing themselves their way), they too would plunge into the abyss of infidelity. There may be some truth to this but I’d like to believe, perhaps naively, that raging hormones and colossal egos are not the main driving force in human behaviour.

Everything we do, every sentence we speak, involves a choice. And there are always consequences to the decisions we make. So when alpha male decides to sleep with trashy Tammy, sensuous Susan, and lusty Lucy when he is married with two young children, there are going to be repercussions. Big ones. We’re all fallible and we are all capable of doing remarkably irresponsible things, but when you are a big name, whether a politician, a religious leader, a sports figure, or a superstar, and you actively promote yourself as a pedestal-worthy guy, then you’d better work hard to warrant that status.

Some journalists criticize the public for holding leaders and celebrities to impossible standards. But is being faithful and true to one’s wife and family really too much to expect? The press and the public may be complicit in creating heroes out of fallible humans, but are they responsible for the betrayals and indiscretions committed by these men? Hardly.

I can rhyme off about a half dozen men who have thrown their reputations, their hard-earned careers, and their families out the window, only to regret it later. Sometimes they manage to overcome their shame, but they can never regain their glistening image or get anywhere near that pedestal again. That’s the price of hypocrisy.

Tiger may be in our minds today, but there are some politicians and religious leaders who make him look pretty good in the scheme of indiscretions. Here are some examples:

Who can forget Gary Hart, the Colorado state senator who was the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in 1988? Having denied an extramarital affair and then dared the press to follow him around, he was soon caught red-handed with his mistress, Donna Rice, on a yacht ironically named “Monkey Business.” When an incriminating romantic photo was published in the press, he immediately dropped out of the campaign.

More recently, South Carolina Gov. Mark Stanford, also a potential presidential candidate, disappeared from the public and private radar to visit his Argentinean girlfriend. The married father of four young boys garbled his way through an explanation when he returned. “She’s my soul-mate,” he tearfully said of his mistress. Needless to say, he lost his job.

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer may not have been having an extramarital affair in 2008, but patronizing a prostitution service (using government funds) was not the smartest move for the married father of teenage girls. It is believed that Spitzer spent over $80,000 on prostitutes over several years. This is a man who devoted much of his career to “cleaning up” the corruption on Wall Street. A hotshot with great brains and talent, Spitzer was another political superstar with a presidential calling. In his own words:

"From those to whom much has been given, much is expected. I have been given much — the love of my family, the faith and trust of the people of New York, and the chance to lead this state."

"I am deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me."

The cynic in me thinks what he really means, and what his fellow womanizers mean when they make such public apologies is: “I am deeply sorry that I got caught.”

Then there’s Bill Clinton...who can forget Monica Lewinsky and her soiled dress. And Clinton’s infamous words while under oath: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

After months of denying it, 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards finally came clean. Yes, he was having an affair during his campaign, while his wife was battling life-threatening cancer. The clean-cut senator admitted publically that he was narcissistic and egocentric and had made a serious error in judgement.

Do these transgressions mean that such men cannot effectively run the country? Not necessarily, but if their devoted wives can’t trust them, then how can the public?

One of the biggest hypocrites of all was Pastor Ted Haggard, the American Evangelical preacher from Colorado. Devout Christian, husband, and father of five, he was the founder and leader of the 14,000 member New Life Church. He was also the leader of the 30 million–strong National Association of Evangelicals. He had a big role in shaping Christian policy and had a direct line to President George W. Bush. His fall from grace occurred in 2006 when his homosexual relationships and heavy drug use were exposed. I remember watching his emphatic (and pathetic) denials on television.

He feels that the church has betrayed him by not helping him get back on his feet; now he sells insurance.

It’s all very sad, but these men made their own beds. They wanted to stand high and mighty on that pedestal and they publically proclaimed the standard upon which they should be judged. My sympathy goes to their families and to all the others affected by their irresponsible and hypocritical actions.

And sorry to say, Tiger...but for most people, “sorry” doesn’t quite cut it.

1 comment:

  1. The examples you have given are just the tip of the iceberg. I find myself puzzling about why these powerful, capable men keep getting caught doing exactly the same thing. It's almost like they're daring the press to find them out. Of the names you mention, the saddest are people like John Edwards and Tiger, who have built a reputation for being squeaky clean when their lives reflect the opposite. I wonder if the strain of living a life that's so untrue is a bigger burden than they can bear, and that's why it falls apart.