Spitzer and wife: Why Americans have punished Spitzer but
the prostitute he broke his legal vows with, is just as
to Europeans as Monica Lewinski was during the 1990s.
Le Monde, France
American Social and Political Obsession
"Americans should be urged to
take lessons in civilization from the Old world: on this side of the Atlantic,
as shown in cinema, literature and theater, everyone cheats and is cheated on,
and people survive the infidelity of their partner."
By Pascal Bruckner
Translated By Kate Davis
April 30, 2008
- Le Monde - Original Article (French)
A few weeks ago when the new
Democratic governor of New York, David Patterson, a blind man, succeeded the
once-incorruptible Eliot Spitzer who was found guilty of frequenting call
girls, what did he do first? He called a press conference to confess to having
cheated on his wife several times with colleagues from his office.
Politics in America: New York Governor David
Patterson and his wife issue preemptive confessions of infidelity.
His wife, in turn,
acknowledged some escapades of her own, and swore that she and her husband had
overcome these challenges. This stupefies Europeans, who still remember the
outrageous Lewinsky affair: instead of announcing his political program, here
is an official repenting out of fear that his exploits will one day be exposed
to the public. In short, the world's leading power, which is currently losing
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which has revived the practice of torture and
twice in-a-row elected one of the most incompetent heads of state in modern
times, is up in arms over these measly tales of sleeping around!
What's going on when the
entire press, from the gutter papers to the very serious New York Times, covers
this private matter ad infinitum? Let us recall the disappointments of former
Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer: a destroyer of financial corruption and a
champion of the fight against prostitution, he himself frequented a ravishing
22-year-old brunette, Ashley Youmans, alias Kristen, for whose services he was
paying between $1,000 and $5,000, drawing on, it seems, money from his campaign
alias Kristen ...
Here again, nothing out of the
ordinary for an old European with broad experience in the unpredictability of
human nature: like Captain Haddock ,
blind drunk and chairing a meeting against alcoholism, the fathers of modesty
in the United States, the enemies of
vice, of feminism and of the freedom of morals, invariably end up in the
arms of prostitutes, their nostrils filled with cocaine and their hands in the
safe. Every moralist eventually ends up falling one day into the sin he
denounces: isn’t the Catholic Church itself, which advocates chastity and
subjects homosexuals to public obloquy, covering up the actions of thousands of
pedophile priests who rape and abuse children?
The first lesson from old
Europe: Beware of any virtuous discourse. Eros takes revenge on her critics and
delivers a formidable kick in the nose to the prevailing Puritanism. What
should we think about these American family therapy associations that explain
that “the reactions of a betrayed wife resemble the symptoms of post-traumatic
stress shown by the victims of traumatic events,” like September 11, 2001? What
can be said about the seminars for unfaithful spouses who are reeducated like
dissidents in the former Soviet empire?
For a European, confusing a
love affair with a collective catastrophe is an outrageous comparison.
Americans should be urged to take lessons in civilization from the old world:
on this side of the Atlantic, as shown in cinema, literature and theater,
everyone cheats and is cheated on, and people survive the infidelity of their
partner. Real fidelity is far more demanding than strict physical abstinence,
and if the love is strong, it will overcome these episodes.
Better yet: the adulterer,
over here, has almost become an object of veneration, the protest of the
oppressed creature against matrimonial convention – from the utopian Charles
Fourier , who in the early
19th century established a humorous “hierarchy of cuckoldry” that ridiculed all
the “cuckolds;” to Labiche , Feydeau ,
Guitry , who sparked
laughter using the misfortunes of cuckolded spouses, turning violations of the
marriage contract into occasions for hilarity.
lampoon the wedding contract, from left to right:
Charles Fourier; writers Eugène Marin Labiche;
Feydeau; and Sacha Guitry.
More modern still, didn’t
Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir distinguish between contingent and necessary
loves to justify affairs with other partners that they had on occasion? As far
as customs are concerned, Europe is infinitely more wise than the New World and
its hideous obsession with transparency. Even in a marriage of love, strict
monogamy is an inhuman ideal and it's better to work with human weaknesses than
contain them at any price, including at the price of unnecessary drama.
Bertrand Russell ,
in his 1929 essay on Marriage and Morals, recommended a French-style solution:
great tolerance in regard to adulterous liaisons, for both men and women, as
long as they don’t interfere with the life of the couple and don’t disrupt
childrearing. In short, conjugal tranquility that allows for little
arrangements between spouses are the hallmarks of a refined society.
recent European writers who espoused a
casual approach to marriage, from left to
Jean-Paul Sartre; Simone de Beauvoir;
Looking more closely,
however, the Spitzer-Kristen episode provides other lessons. What is the former
governor of New York being punished for? The hypocrisy of a man who swore to
bring down human trafficking and who frequented The Emperor Club, a network of
high-class prostitutes for a distinguished clientele? It is thus Tartuffe who falls, but it's the call-girl who rises to
a surprising notoriety: suddenly, she is propelled to the summit of glory,
inundated with film offers, photo spreads, advertisements for beauty products
and fine lingerie. Two songs that she recorded and sells on a musical site make
$200,000 within just a few days.
Is this Puritanical: the
society that punishes the preacher and rewards the sinner and makes her an
instant star; which puts the stamp of vice on a representative of the moral
order and one of candor on a “pretty woman” from New Jersey? One might wonder
whether the obsession with infidelity on the other side of the Atlantic isn’t a
product of the artificial nature of the American social contract, the pact
inaugurated in 1787 among men of all means, races, origins and religions.
Consensual marriage complemented with the possibility of divorce is thus the
mirror, the microcosm of this founding principle of the nation.
When one thoroughly examines
such transgressions, it becomes much easier to verify this standard: doesn’t
infidelity in conjugal love challenge the original alliance that binds all
Americans? If the small homeland that is the family wavers under the caprices
of spouses, what will happen to the greater homeland in the event of danger?
Where Europe, composed of ancient nations rich in tradition shows a certain
casualness, the United States shows rigidity and intransigence: when the most
fundamental of all links, that of the couple, is undermined, it is the future
of the country itself that could be shaken. A recent creation, America is exorcising
its own fragility through the conjugal offences of its leaders. The stakes are
only superficially moral: they are above all, political.
CLICK HERE FOR FRENCH
[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US May 4, 6:00pm]