Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A nation of Adolescents

Again, I hear on the radio and read in the mainstream and social media, that there is a national scandal.  A general who is married is having sex with his biographer who also is married.  The story is complicated because the biographer senses a rival paramour and has been writing to this other woman hoping to push her away from the general.  More news surfaced today that another government official was aware of the activity.

This, despite the media attention, should not be a national scandal. It is depicted this way only because we are a nation of adolescents and act like tittering teenagers when we talk about it.  The general and biographer's sexual relationship is, in fact, none of our business. It is the business of only the lovers and the spouses.  The general was not sleeping with the enemy.  The intimacy was consensual.    It seems as if these two fell in love or at least were physically attracted to each other and had sex.

Is this wrong?  How the hell do we know. We have no idea of the particulars. And besides the biographer and general have not asked us our opinion.This should be where this ends.

The conventional notion of marriage--a social construction--is that there is a pledge to be monogamous.  The best guess is that these two made these pledges and violated them.  I am not a big fan of people who violate pledges, but nobody really knows anything about the nuances of the relationships.

I am drinking coffee now. It is in a paper cup.  I have a cup of coffee. This is not a social construction. If I drink this coffee I will taste coffee. If I hurry up and write this blog the coffee will be hot when I drink it. Hot, as it relates to coffee, is not a social construction.  If I drink a lot of the coffee I will be jittery and in no shape to conduct my two o'clock or four o'clock meetings after lunch.  Jittery is not a social construction.  Monogamy is not a social construction. Bigamy is not a social construction.

Marriage is a social construction.  What it is and has come to mean has been constructed by our society.  If you take a step back, you would realize that when you marry you are explicitly or tacitly agreeing to a set of principles that have no organic provenance.  If you agree to them and remain committed to them, then, that is your business. If you agree to a different set and remain committed to them, that is also your business. And if you agree to them and do not remain committed to them, that is also your business.   I have no more right to comment on the general's behavior or to consider it a scandal, than to point at my neighbor's holiday decorations and scream "scandalous".

When I was a kid there was a house a few blocks away that was decorated in a way that you would not believe. When I write you would not believe it, I am not exaggerating.  We would take visitors to see it. You would have trouble parking on the otherwise lazy street during holiday season.  Unbelievable display.

It was, I'll opine, in bad taste.  It was ostentatious, took away from anyone else's decoration, and was like someone painting his house hot pink or purple.   But it was not a national scandal.  What people do without interfering with others is not a national story.

As it relates to the general and his biographer, maybe their marriages were on the rocks. Maybe they had spoken with their spouses and decided that they were going to open up their marriages. And maybe not.  Whatever, it is not a national story. It is a local story. Very local.

We are a nation of adolescents. We react to sex the same way as adults as when we were in junior high and found out that Jane, who was wearing Billy's id bracelet, was smooching with Louie by the handball court. People who are in monogamous relationships may say that they are under contract. Fine. It is their business how they construct and adhere to their contract.  It is not ours.

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