Guys And Their Flies

It’s a story as old as the human race:  a powerful older married man has an affair with a younger woman, his indiscretions are discovered, and his career comes crashing down.

The latest example, of course, is former CIA director and four-star general David Petraeus, who resigned after his affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, was discovered.  Petraeus, 60, apparently began his affair with Broadwell, 40, shortly after he resigned from the Army, and the affair continued during his service as CIA director until it ended four months ago.  The affair became public when the FBI began investigating whether Broadwell had violated federal cyber-harassment laws by sending threatening anonymous e-mails to another woman.  During the investigation, the FBI traced the e-mails to Broadwell’s computer, where they found explicit and salacious e-mails between Petraeus and Broadwell that evidenced their affair.

Petraeus, who has been married to his wife Holly for 38 years, regrets his indiscretions and says he showed “extremely poor judgment” in having the affair.  No kidding!  He not only betrayed his vows to his long-time wife, he also could have jeopardized classified information given his critical role at the CIA and his access to top-secret information.  Fortunately for Petraeus and everyone else, there is no sign that his tryst with Broadwell compromised national security.

Why do some powerful older men act so stupidly and recklessly?  Is it vanity, or a belief that they are beyond reproach, or is it just that they aren’t thinking at all — at least, not with the right body parts?  After the public disclosure, and the ritual actions of apology and contrition by the disgraced individual are played out, it’s tough to ferret out what really motivates such actions.

It’s a lesson for the rest of us, too.  Behind the carefully controlled and cultivated public image of powerful people, a silly, embarrassing inner adolescent may be lurking and ready to burst forth at any time.  We should all keep that possibility in mind the next time we think a public figure may be perfect and we are told to implicitly trust their judgment on important matters.

Condemning The Book-Burning Idiocy

I’m sure most everyone has heard by now of the Florida church that is planning on burning the Koran on Saturday to commemorate, in the most wrong-headed way imaginable, the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  The book-burning exercise has been roundly condemned throughout the world, and General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has warned that the act would put the lives of American troops in even greater danger.

It is unnecessary, but I nevertheless want to add my voice to the chorus of disapproval for two reasons.  First, book-burning is unacceptable, period.  Anyone who believes in free speech believes that the appropriate response to speech is more speech, not censorship — and certainly not the pointlessly provocative act of burning a book that is sacred to another religion.  This is America, not Nazi Germany, and the ignorant members of the Dove World Outreach Center would do well to remember that.

Second, the contemplated action of this obscure church is exactly the kind of thing that makes non-religious Americans cringe in shame and shake their heads in dismay — and I am sure it is even more embarrassing and infuriating to Americans who are religious.  America is founded on fundamental concepts of religious tolerance.  Freedom of religion means that we put up with the apparently nutty members of the Dove World Outreach Center and allow them to gather and celebrate their religious beliefs, whatever they may be, without interference.  All we ask is that they behave responsibly and respect the views of others who hold different beliefs.  Any Americans who put members of our armed forces, who already are in harm’s way, in even more peril in order to receive publicity or to further their obscure religious beliefs are acting with unforgivable recklessness.  They are perversely giving America a black eye for religious intolerance when, to the contrary, the very existence of the Dove World Outreach Center is compelling evidence of the sweeping religious tolerance that characterizes this country.

What the members of the Dove World Outreach Center are planning on doing is shameful, and they should be denounced by every American.