Everyone from David Letterman to UU minister/sexologist Debra Haffner has been commenting on the recent news about Mark Sanford. For those of you not checking the news, the GOP governor of South Carolina had been AWOL for a week, and admitted to running off to Argetina with his mistress.
And just before that, Republican Senator John Ensign admitted to cheating on his wife.
Not to mention John Edwards, Elliot Spitzer, Larry Craig, Jim McGreevey, Bill Clinton, ...
Already I've read someone muse if there's something in the mental makeup of politicians, or the culture of political life, which makes them so prone to sexual improprieties. Well, I don't think so. The only real difference between politicos and regular folks in this regard is their level of public exposure. Lots of people cheat on their partners; we just hear more about politicians doing it because they have the press constantly on their tail (pardon the pun).
What bothers me about all of this is society's skewed sense of ethics. No, I'm not talking about folks wanting to throw politicians out for being adulterers (although, given that Sanford actually abandoned his post, I'd say that was justifiable). I'm talking about the automatic assumption that monogamy somehow equals moral virtue. And while it's true that keeping one's promises is a reflection of that ... what if the promise a couple makes does not include being exclusive to one another?
Many people live lives of integrity and honesty in mutually fulfilling polyamorous relationships. Honesty does not require monogamy any more than good governance requires political dogmatism. And how refreshing would it be if a politician came out as having a happy secondary relationship with the knowledge and consent of their spouse and family.
Oh, yeah ... that already happened with Roy Romer. Don't remember that? Probably because when Romer and his family opened up about it, their refreshing honesty made it a non-issue.
That, to me, points to the real scandal behind adultery - the dodging and dishonesty, the futile attempt to hold onto one's office and power and prestige by worrying about what Mrs. Grundy would say. And the real problem is when they make political decisions based on that same short-sighted and cowardly approach.
It's time for politicians - and all of us - to start putting personal integrity above political image-making.