Exploiting the Pain and Shame of an Illicit Affair

I cannot bear to watch that wretched South Carolina governor being ridiculed and shamed on television. And I will not yield to temptation and use him as an example of the general depravity of Republican politicians. Not that I fail to grasp the irony of the Republican Party’s self-righteous preaching about “family values.” Not that I condone Republican politicians’ hypocrisy: They take the name of the Lord in vain when they exploit morality and religion for political advantage, and they expose themselves to justifiable contempt when they throw stones at others and are later shown – as they so often are – to live in glass houses.

sanfordI suspect most Republican politicians – most politicians –  are depraved. Politics is a dirty business. And politicians often are dirty. But a love affair is no laughing matter. It can be beautiful. It can be sordid. It can – and often is – tragic.

In the case of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (pictured above with his family at his swearing-in ceremony), it is a tragedy. To understand the horror of it, you have only to read this passage from one of the emails he sent his lover, emails that are now being tittered at by a titillated public:

This is ground I have certainly never covered before – so if you have pearls of wisdom on how we figure all this out please let me know. In the meantime please sleep soundly knowing that despite the best efforts of my head my heart cries out for you, your voice, your body, the touch of your lips, the touch of your finger tips and an even deeper connection to your soul.

If you have ever fallen under the spell of an irresistible attraction, you will understand. If you have not, you cannot know what Mark Sanford is going through. He fell into that ring of fire that Johnny Cash sang about when he lost his heart to June Carter. And he can only watch helplessly as his life and career go up in smoke.

He will have to answer to his wife and four sons. And he will bear those scars forever. He will be diminished in the eyes of family and friends. He will be humbled when he looks in the mirror. Far less important, he will lose the trust of his constituents and irreparably damage his chances of political advancement.

Do not misunderstand me. I could not disagree more with Sanford’s politics. To me he is a sorry excuse for a governor. He seems to be arrogant, ill-informed and self promoting. And it would be tempting to say, “It serves him right!”

But as a fellow human being, I pity him for the pain he must endure, and I pity his wife and family for their anguish. And I pity his lover, herself a hapless victim of Cupid’s arrow. Affairs of the heart are unpredictable.  Love is like a train wreck. It comes without warning, and the best anyone can do is try to pick up the pieces.