Thursday, July 25, 2013

They Were Right: Lessons on Clinton, Scandal and News

They were right. All the nutjob conservatives (not to be confused with rational conservatives) were right about the effects of Clinton's scandal during the Lewinsky mess. They opined, chimed and whined at the time about how the acceptance of the scandal would taint our future and they were right. We have come to nearly expect the scandals, personal and professional, of our elected officials and public figures to such a degree that it has become boring to hear about them or read about them in the 'news'.

Like a game of tic-tac-toe, we know the outcome all too well as soon as an X is placed in a box. The scandal will blow, the affected individual will claim illness or loss of self during an episode in life that he/she must work through, the news will boast and blare about it for a few days, and then quiet. Some time thereafter, the same individual will step forward, claim redemption and seek out public glory again. And we, the unwitting (by choice) suppliers of this banal buffet will belly up and eat. How pathetic.

I'll say, not for the first time, that men and women having sex, talking about sex, engaging in sex outside of solemnized relationships, is not 'new' and so it is not 'news'. Can we please move on?

JFK was a swell fellow in many respects, but I'm certain most folks will acknowledge he was a scoundrel in his marriage. His brother was not much better. The much revered, and rightly so, MLK was also known to be a bit of a player, to put it nicely. Eleanor Roosevelt had some business outside the confines of her role as First Lady that many today would point to as early evidence that same-sex relationships have been around our public arenas for some time - or at least those are the whispers. These remained private details of their lives, not because the media was not aware, but because they exercised judgement in terms of the newsworthiness of this information as opposed to these figures' policies and public personas.

So where JFK and MLK and Eleanor have the benefit of being judged mostly on their work, modern-day public officials are often regarded as composites of their personal and professional lives, not just by people who know them intimately, but by any soul with eyes and ears in a checkout stand. Why? Why? If you saw me in my pajamas having just woken from a sound sleep would you suggest I was not qualified to do my work? I don't look half as shiny in flannel as I do in linen. If someone saw you pitch a fit with your spouse, saying God-only-knows what in the heat of a moment, would they trust you to handle your job? How about in your intimate life? Would your penchant for kisses behind the ear be newsworthy to your clients? I should hope not.

And so I'm tired of it. I don't care what Mr. Weiner does with his parts. I leave that to him and, to the extent she's interested, his wife. If he is a moral mess in his personal life, I'm sorry for him. If I never get to hear another detail of his personal business, I'll be quite satisfied.

Can he be an effective mayor of New York? That's the question before voters - and only New York voters. Was Clinton an effective President? The polls answered that question.

So why must we keep suffering this nonsense? News media must return to its earlier stance on the issue of reporting personal peccadillos. It's not news.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Not My Plan

It's hard to stay focused on the grand theme of things. I often have to remind myself, sometimes quietly, sometimes more loudly, 'Not my plan, His plan'. It's hard.

I've been to two funerals in the past week, one for the mother of a friend from my childhood, the other for a lost friend of my own. Both were bittersweet for their obvious and not-so reasons.

My friend's mother was a single mom, like my own, he an only child, like me. As I saw him, again and again, resting his brow in the hand his mother made, I could feel trying to grasp and then wipe away his loneliness. It's something only an only child can understand. He has a lovely wife, beautiful children, loyal friends. But he is alone. His mother is gone and she was all that was left of him before he was a dad or a husband or a friend. He is alone and gone are the chances to reconcile what was awkward or failing in their love so they could find peace and linger only in its comfort, no longer in pain.

There stood the stallions of our childhood - then boys, now men, who had towered through the halls of our elementary school, brave and unknowing - carrying one of our mothers to her final rest. They stood there with him, for him, still strong but now wiser for the years that have taken them through their own troubles. There was his wife, graceful, loving, strong. She was there for him, with him, too. And his beautiful children, his daughter a whisper of his mom but new in her own aura, leaned against him not for strength but to offer comfort.

I wished with all my might I could reassure him that he was anything but alone, knowing full well that in my own heart, my ache for him was one that I will feel for myself some day. And it was hard to step away from the moment and see that in the grand scheme of things, according to His plan, all was right.

The friend lost to me - and I to her - spent her days in the time we were apart busy with her own living. And then, not because any of us planned it, she spent too many days busy with pain and illness. We had broken off over disappointment - hers that I could not spend more time together tending to our friendship - mine that she could not understand my constant state of tire and overwhelm. I was too busy, or so I thought.

I sat against the hard back of a church pew for the second time in a week. All around me friends and family who had kept her close, smiled softly at me in recognition, hugging me at service's end, not knowing, or perhaps, worse, they did. That I - for my stubborn refusal to let go of my own plan - failed to be a friend when most needed.

During the service her sister offered this story about their mother's prayers as her daughter neared her final days: having lost her oldest daughter to illness several years ago their mother called out to that daughter in prayer, not for relief from pain or cure from illness for her youngest. She called her to reach out her hands to her sister and bring her safely into the next life. And I thought that's something I might do, as a mother. 'Come get your baby sister,' I might call out to my oldest. And the very fleeting presence of that thought in my head made me gasp with the pain and horror of it and I hurried to God, pleading Him to take that thought away from me, to never let me feel that pain. Again, I found myself selfish, and then regretful for my own greed.

I hope and pray that I have the days before me to see my children grow, to find them happy and fulfilled, to rest after my work, to hold my mother in full and love without judgement or delay. I pray for mercy. Still, I know.

Not my plan. His plan.

It's hard.