A part of me feels bad for Mark Sanford - a very small part, to be sure, but it's there, nonetheless. I will be roundly booed for this, but hear me out.
For those not paying attention, Mark Sanford is the governor of South Carolina. He is in his second term. He is a Republican. He has been AWOL from his job for the last week. According to his remarks at a press conference today, he spent those seven days "crying in Argentina" on the shoulder of the woman he's been having an affair with for the past year.
My first thought is: ho-hum, another politician cheated." Cuz really, we shouldn't be THAT surprised. We shouldn't even be surprised when it's Republicans. They talk a good game about being the party of family values, but, hey, they're human and capable of fucking up, just like the rest of us. It's just that they're usually the last to figure this out.
There's also the fact that Sanford abandoned his job for a week, not even telling his staff where he was. (Well, that's not entirely true. He lied that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail to take his mind off the battle over Federal stimulus funds. You cannot make this shit up). I mean, I can't leave my job for one day without telling my boss I'm not going to be there. This dude is gone for a whole week, and still expects to keep his job (he resigned from his role as head of the Republican Governor's Association).
But I digress. Here's why I feel bad for Mark Sanford. In addition to being the latest in a long line of pols hoist by his own self-righteous petard (hi Sen. Ensign), his whole life is on display for all to see. The State, a South Carolina newspaper has published some of the email exchanges he had with his lover. After skimming one, and feeling like a Peeping Tom, I got to thinking about the way we as a society deal with sex and sexuality. We make it this big bugaboo that's hidden away in a closet (no pun intended, really!) and then Mark Sanfords or Eliot Spitzers bring it out into the open and suddenly, we're shocked shocked that this kind of thing is happening. It then becomes easy to act like these things are ONLY the province of guys like Sanford, and we don't have to examine anything about ourselves. Convenient.
Now, I'm no Sanford fan, nor am I condoning or excusing his actions. IMO, the worst thing he did was leave the state he was elected to serve unattended for seven days. That's irresponsible and that is the reason he should resign.
But man, oh man, am I tired of people acting like ZOMG! Men have affairs! Powerful men have affairs! OMG! OMG! This shit hasn't been news since biblical times. Just once, I'd like it if we in this country could approach matters of sexuality - and while we're at it, human frailty - with something resembling maturity.