When Eliot Spitzer resigns his position as New York governor today it will be the end of his career in politics. Much of the blogosphere is debating the rights and wrongs of his wife standing with him while he acknowledged his assignations with high-class prostitutes, but the argument goes much deeper than that.
It throws the whole concept of American morality into question.
While we have a right to expect our politicians to practice that which they preach, the biblical ethics forced on society by right-wing powers in this country are so ludicrously outdated as to be obsolete. Struggling to maintain a set of ethical rules dating back thousands of years results in a constant stream of public figures, both from politics and religion, falling from grace in a fashion that makes a mockery of the morals they swear to uphold.
Hardly a week goes by that some unfortunate soul is not caught with his pants round his ankles, performing ‘lewd acts’ – whatever that is supposed to mean – with a man, or woman, or animal, definitely not his wife.
Interestingly, another news item to hit the headlines this week has not been connected to Spitzer’s demise. But it should be.
A recent report has noted that an incredibly high percentage of teenage girls in America are infected with sexually transmitted diseases such as clamydia, human papilloma virus, and herpes. One in every four white teenage girls between the ages of fourteen and nineteen are infected, and nearly half (48%) of black girls of similar age.
The reason is so obvious it hardly bears explanation: ignorance.
Lack of proper sex education; moralistic emphasis on abstinence rather than condom use and proper birth control, and the high-handed approach that US girls just won’t have sex if they’re properly brought up and attend church regularly, are all causes of this unhealthy explosion in disease.
The plain fact is that teenagers will have sex. It’s not possible to stop it because it’s a natural function controlled by hormones. To demand youngsters abstain totally until marriage is not only stupid, it’s plain cruel. Perhaps, in a perfect society it might be feasible, but America is one of the most imperfect society’s on the planet. It runs the length of the spectrum from High Church to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, yet American values demand all its citizens adhere to the same moral standards, as decreed by those who regularly flaunt them, and occasionally – like Eliot Spitzer – get found out.
Mister Spitzer may, today, be wishing he was born French. The French have a much more sensible approach than Americans, or even the British, to morals and ethics. French politicians are expected to perform their duties well, but how they entertain themselves in their spare time is seldom cause for headlines in Gallic newspapers. While President Sarkozy’s recent, steamy, love affair with Carla Bruni caused a few Parisian ‘tut-tuts’, it was more out of boredom with the whole business rather than any sense of moral indignation.
To compare the United States to Europe is to step back in history over one hundred years, to the time Queen Victoria ruled Britain. Then, moral values were biblically pure, as they are in America today. In practice, however, everyone was ‘doing it’ just as much as they ever have since before man first jumped down from the trees.
Today, morals have fallen more into line with reality throughout Europe, though certain nations like France have proved more openly forthright over the issue than others.
America has remained a closed society for years, unaffected by the apparent immorality of the outside world. European visitors find it quaintly amusing that female breasts are fuzzed, and even mildly ‘blasphemous’ comments bleeped out by US TV channels.
It all begs the question: who is right? Have Europe and other secular nations descended the long road to hell and abomination since the nineteenth century, or is America just wallowing in a time-warped pit of its own self-righteousness?
To answer the question it is necessary to define ‘morals’.
Websters defines ‘morals’ as ‘modes of conduct’; rules by which we conduct ourselves. That suggests a rule can be made to which we, as individual human beings, can all adhere.
Nothing is further from the truth. Eliot Spitzer, his long line of precedent politicians and churchmen, and our sexually infected teenage girls are all living proof of that.
Morals are nothing more than a curtain, a veil we draw to obscure our true selves. The occurrences behind the curtain go on as they have since time immemorial, but we pretend they’re not there.
Once in a while, the curtain is lifted, or the veil rent, revealing the true hypocrisy – not of the accused, but of the moral code our minds have convinced us we all happily live under and obey.
Eliot Spitzer’s frolic with a prostitute is a matter for himself and his family. He should resign, but not because of his assignation. His crime was one of pretense. He made a virtue of attacking the actions of others while underhandedly mocking the morals he pretended to uphold.
Prostitution is illegal in this country, as in certain parts of Europe. Yet it is one of the most flourishing and oldest professions on the planet. It has survived, despite moral persecution, because it supplies a universal need, yet it is seen by the moralistic right as a flagship, the hallmark of evil and corrupt immorality in this country.
In truth, the only reason for outlawing it is to keep our moral veil in place.
Meanwhile, that veil will regularly twitch, revealing more and more Eliot Spitzers, fallen politicians and clerics, and teenagers infected by sexually transmitted diseases.
Filed under: Moral low ground