Thursday, July 02, 2009
An Open Letter to Meghan McCain
Dear Ms. McCain,
This is written in response to your latest post on The Daily Beast, entitled "Forgive Mark Sanford".
Allow me to speak frankly. Do understand that you are probably the only self-identified Republican I currently take seriously. In an era where your party is increasingly defined by the Evangelical Christian far-right, I find Progressive Republicans like you a refreshing alternative to the status quo. It is a comforting thought for unapologetic liberal Democrats like yours truly that the phrase "Progressive Republican" might not need be an oxymoron. Indeed, you make many interesting observations, some of which I even agree with, but at times you also come across like the slightly naive child of privilege that you are. In columns like the one posted above, one recognizes your ample potential while also noting your youth and inexperience.
If you wish to be taken seriously, (and I firmly believe that you do) then I recommend you take the time to make sure that the examples you cite in your column line up and directly reinforce your points.
For example, in the column referenced above you write,
France—home of my absolute favorite foreign first lady, Carla Bruni—perfected the laissez-faire attitude toward the sex lives of its public leaders. Not here. We hold our politicians to impossible standards. We elect them, put our hopes and dreams for a brighter future on that one person, and then expect sainthood. Republicans—and Democrats—should forgive these private sins and move on. Life happens. People—especially politicians—make mistakes.
Carla Bruni has been known to make some very controversial statements herself---statements that if they been uttered by the American First Lady would cause a scandal. In particular, Bruni has stated in times past that "I am monogamous from time to time, but I prefer polygamy and polyandry". Additionally, she has noted that she quickly grows "bored with monogamy" and that "love lasts a long time, but burning desire — two to three weeks". Not only that, naked pictures of Ms. Bruni, taken when she was a model, have surfaced and sold for high prices at auction. Any one of these things would likely be unforgivable matters in the eyes of the American public and in particular, the conservative press, who made an issue out of a relatively benign Michelle Obama comment made during her husband's Presidential campaign.
Furthermore, it is one thing to forgive politicians for their zipper problems but quite another thing to make reference to a woman whose on-the-record comments seem to speak against the existence of any and all marriage or, for that matter, sexual fidelity. In a day and age where same-sex marriage is a hotly debated matter, if one took Bruni's advice at face value, then there would be no need for the institution itself, regardless of whether it took place within a heterosexual or homosexual context. Thus, there would be no need for court fights, protests, and coordinated approaches to advance the cause of same-sex unions. At this point, I probably ought to mention that you yourself, breaking with many in your party, have spoken out in favor of same-sex marriage in the recent past.
The societal expectations between the United States and France are about as different as chalk and cheese. France is a country where the residence have long held a cynical view towards politicians. In their collective attitude, all elected officials are automatically chronic philanders and all of them are heavily corrupt. At times I think this sort of attitude might be liberating, but I'm not sure I want to assume that when I go into the voting booth that every vote I cast, regardless of office or position, is for someone who is a sleazeball by default. America, with its Puritan, WASP heritage, seems to take the opposite extreme. What you are right to point out, Ms. McCain, is that we do hold our leaders and public figures to impossible standards here, both in their personal lives and in their chosen occupation.
This is, however, not likely to change. Politicians take a dual role in American life. Those we respect we use to project our own best qualities, or the perceived qualities we would like to have ourselves. Those we dislike are our whipping boys, who serve as a way for us to vent our frustrations and hostilities in socially acceptable ways. This is the nature of being in the public eye as it exists. Everyone who chooses to run for high elected office knows both the risks and the great benefits that are the nature of the beast before going into it. I, for one, hope that we might find some middle ground between the American and French attitudes, but cultural mentalities are stubborn matters and do not evaporate overnight.