Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spitzer? I Hardly Know 'Er!

As many of you have probably heard by now, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has been linked to a high end prostitution ring by federal investigators. There have been numerous calls for his resignation after prosecutors unsealed an affidavit detailing a rendezvous in a Washington hotel room last month.

I have to say that I've been a fan of Spitzer's for quite a while now. As state Attorney General he took on major corporate interests and organized crime figures responsible for inflicting crimes upon the citizens of New York and beyond. He kind of reminded me of Bobby Kennedy going after the mob during his brother's administration in the sixties. That said, I must admit that I'm deeply disappointed in him after all of this.

Not because he visited a prostitute or anything as trivial and simple-minded as that. Not even because he cheated on his wife of 20 years. How can we know what the status of their marriage is or the arrangements they've made with each other? That is a private matter for them and their family that is none of our business. No, I'm disappointed because this is just one more example of the rank hypocrisy exhibited by one of our elected officials.

Of course, I blame the American people just as much as I do these public servants (and yes, I include myself in this group to a degree). This practice we have of putting these people up onto a pedestal, insisting that they be squeaky-clean idealists, that they have a happy family life, that they be photogenic and look good speaking in front of a bank of microphones, that they be absolutely free from "sin", etc. These are only human beings, no better than you or I. Then when they inevitably fall from grace for whatever reasons, the hysterical, hyper-partisan political climate that we've all embraced as a country shifts into overdrive and they are maligned as monsters and crooks that must be held up as examples of whichever side of the political spectrum they inhabit, when they (and each of us, for that matter) are merely deeply flawed individuals, trying to do the best we can in an imperfect world.

But again, what bothers me is the hypocrisy: you prosecute people for organized crime and prostitution, so now you're going to have sex with a prostitute? To David Vitter: you slammed Bill Clinton on his extra-marital affairs in the nineties, so now you're going to cheat on your wife? To Mark Foley: you're in charge of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, so now you're going to hit on and proposition young congressional pages? To Larry Craig: you take every opportunity to condemn homosexuality and block equal marriage rights for gays, so now you're going to have sex with another man in an airport restroom? Aside from the pedophilia (which is a morally grey area at best when it involves seventeen year olds), I have no personal moral objections to these men's actions, but couldn't you at least decide to engage in an activity that was somewhat different from the exact same one you've gone on public record for vehemently opposing?

Which brings me to the subject of prostitution (settle down). As I alluded to in a previous post and promised to expand upon at a later date, I have no problem with the use of illegal substances by consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes and I view prostitution in much the same light. Full disclosure: I have never slept with a prostitute. Not that I would be ashamed of it if I had but I just haven't. Some buddies and I did find ourselves at an Asian "massage parlor" in downtown San Francisco one night and many of the girls were very attractive but I opted out of the transaction when I found out that I couldn't just get a massage. Again, I did this not out of some moral objection but more for the reasons of possible uncleanliness and almost certain disease (plus it would have been a lot more expensive).

Of course, the Interwebs have been abuzz on this subject for the past 36 hours and I have seen many common sense questions being asked. Among them: why is it illegal for me to pay a prostitute for sex but a director can pay two people to have sex on film and then make money selling the DVD? Why is there such a social stigma against prostitutes and johns while Ron Jeremy and Jenna Jameson are treated like celebrities by the media? Why is it that if I pay two people to have sex in my bedroom while I watch it's prostitution but if I watch these same two people on a DVD in my bedroom it's just pornography? And what I consider one of the clearest and most succinct questions on this subject: why is it illegal to sell, what it is perfectly legal to give away?

As I stated in this post, I think that Americans have some massive hangups when it comes to sex and sexuality but I think the problem goes deeper than that. We are an anachronism as a society: we enjoy greater amounts of wealth and pleasure as a people than any civilization in history and yet we inflict upon ourselves unbelievable amounts of guilt and shame for this same enjoyment; a sometimes almost imperceptible but often blatant self-imposed penance. Now I don't want to solely blame the proliferation of religion in our society for these hangups so I'll only blame it for the vast majority of them.

I regret starting this line of thought as I am now out of time to properly elucidate upon it but I promise to in the near future. I do hope that what I have written today on this subject will spur some interesting discussions amongst all of you and your families and friends. More to come (pun completely unintended).

[Update: Eliot Spitzer resigned as governor of New York state the day after this post was written.]


Anonymous said...

The audio of Larry Craig denying his gayness his hilarious. I've never heard a more (seemingly) gay man proclaim to not be gay. Furthermore, I love his squirming around trying to explain why he plead GUILTY to such a charge. I don't know, maybe he's not, but either way it still makes me laugh: VIDEO I especially love that he says he'll make great efforts to respond to all media questions going forward, one guy starts to ask something and Craig just walks off.

If you ever DO sleep with a prostitute, I think I'd recommend not plastering it on the blog. I don't think your mom or sister would want to know.

Great questions about prostitution/pornography.

What's the point of your next-to-last paragraph? When I glossed over it initially I simply took that you were blaming religion (mostly) for America's sexuality hangups. Upon multiple reads, though, you seem to be saying that we should not be humbled by our wealth when there are so many less fortunate people out there. No? There are a lot of different thoughts in here that seem to need sorting out. Perhaps a separate post IS needed on this one paragraph.

"I have no personal moral objections to these men's actions"

I think you mean to say that you don't look down upon them. I'm sure you would take some level of objection if the characters were replaced with your sisters and their husbands... or worse yet, with your (theoretical) wife and you.

"Each of us are deeply flawed individuals, trying to do the best we can in an imperfect world."

Dude, you couldn't have said it better. I'm glad you can see that. There's nothing that saddens me more than those who can't. Of course, it does raise the question of what barometer you are using to define flawed. Are you considering the drugs/prostitution to be flaws? In some ways your post implies no. In some ways it says yes. It's unclear whether you think these things are truly flaws or societal hangups. Whether you're excusing the behavior because you feel it's ok or because you yourself are flawed, and will allow these people to be flawed as well. There's some really interesting discussion you could have on this "flawed" business at a later date.

Anonymous said...

Crap, with the rate I've been posting on your blog, I really do need to get my own. I've had the idea in my head for 3 years now. The problem is that I wanted to disassociate my true identity completely, allowing the blog to grow into its own thing for the targeted audience. The thoughts your posts inspire are not conducive to my ideal blog whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

Spitzer's wife looks totally stoned in that picture.

JBW said...

I totally agree with you on the video. That guy couldn't have looked like more of a liar if he tried. As far as prostitutes go, I don't plan on posting any admissions of illegal activity on this blog or any other public forum. Again, not out of shame but just because that is monumentally stupid. And the questions about prostitution vs. pornography were culled from other sites but I do agree that they are great.

As to the 2nd to last paragraph, you are right in my estimation of religion but I am by no means advocating a lack of humility. I think that it is entirely possible to take great pleasure from life while being neither arrogant about it nor ashamed of it. I actually threw in the word "wealth" to emphasize just how good we have it in relation to the history of man, although I guess some people could find shame in it. Just the same, I think to revel in our material riches or to be ashamed of our sexual urges take either to an unhealthy extreme.

When I wrote that I have no moral objections to their actions, I meant the acts themselves: soliciting a prostitute, having gay sex, etc. The hurt those actions caused other people is a separate issue, ie. a single man could do the same things and it would seemingly hurt no one. Again, this is a personal judgement.

As far as our flaws are defined, I can only do that for myself. I don't set the bar for anyone else. I don't consider drugs or prostitution personal flaws unless you yourself are trying to resist them and then fail, as the gentlemen in question seem to be portraying themselves as doing. I admit that I am flawed in many ways but my flaws are my own and are not defined by the failures of others.

I don't know if I've said this already but thanks for your comments thus far. I wish the handful of people on here were half as vocal as yourself. I enjoy the intellectual stimulation of contrarian views and ideological challenges.

Spitzer's wife? Not just stoned, but numb. Standing there while he admits this shit, can you blame her?

Doug"e" said...

Oh come on JBW, finding yourself at an Asian massage parlor and not consumateing the deed smacks of Bill Clinton trying to smoke pot and not inhale.

JBW said...

First of all, he's full of shit. That was an out and out lie by a practiced politician who would rather look like an idiot that can't master the fundamentals of breathing rather than have to defend some harmless drug use.

Second, I reject your analogy. I wasn't trying to sleep with a prostitute and couldn't figure out how to do it; I chose not to for the aforementioned reasons. If it had been someplace clean and legal like the Bunny Ranch perhaps events would have unfolded differently (you didn't see this place).

I admit to previous (and copious) inhalation, just not the copulation (as far as the whores are concerned).