COMMENTARY on Weinergate: America, get a grip!

New York Rep. Anthony Weiner’s sex scandal du jour was already way too tedious. The full spectrum of political punditry just couldn’t get enough as another high profile politician withered in titillation-fueled media glare.

Way too familiar, it was deja vu all over again and yet another lesson in lessons unlearned.

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  • COMMENTARY on Weinergate: America, get a grip!

Even Bill Clinton’s enormous shadow of resurrection and post presidential good deeds couldn’t protect Congressman Weiner from the heat. There was no peace for him and for the rest of us until the next sex scandal nudged this one out of the spotlight that is, until June 16, 2011. The congressman resigned, and progressives lost one of the loudest and most successful voices in Washington.

His resignation made a certain amount of sense. Not only did his tweeting scandal serve as a distraction for this tremendously valuable politician but the monotony of this, the same old tired dance, was reaching its limits. And, the background percussion of high decibel hand wringing and tongue clucking from the Democratic Party only added to the din.

But this could be an opportunity. Wienergate is another chance to have a dialog about America’s schizophrenic and unhealthy preoccupation with the sex lives of others and especially, the sex lives of our elected leaders. But even more importantly it’s a chance to look in the mirror and admit that Americans, like everyone else, love sex. We just pretend to be appalled.

According to some of the press and some of those political pundits, we’re collectively sickened and repelled by the congressman’s behavior. It’s aberrant and immoral, and it couldn’t be tolerated. Yet for some reason, the first hit on Google is not congressman’s record or biography or history as a political force. Instead, the first outcome as of June 15 was “Anthony Weiner lewd photo.” It seemed the public just couldn’t get enough of this battle of the bulge.

There were other factors at work though. Titillation sells news and news makes money. Not only did Weinergate sell papers and time slots for advertisers, it gave the moralists among us something to feel good about. And furthermore, it was a big boost for those who hustle professional services to the sexually addicted.

Timothy Lee, a licensed clinical social worker, runs New York Pathways. Lee is quoted as saying,"He didn't wake up and just start sending pictures. I assume this is some type of voyeuristic exhibitionism type behavior. But it does show how delusional one must be to engage in this behavior. To think that the person on the other end is going to get off on it?"

To that, the obvious response is yes. In all likelihood, that other person was indeed, getting off on it.

People, like it or not are fascinated. Whether in the quicksand of a computer generated porn cycle or simply out of curiosity people do indeed, “get off.” The proof is in the number of Google hits for, “Anthony Weiner lewd pics,” and to this there’s an argument to be made.

Perhaps in a healthy, well-adjusted society, people would simply shrug their shoulders in boredom. One would hope so. But unfortunately, that’s not the case in today’s America, as evidenced by the congressman’s resignation press conference.

Benjy Bronk, a staffer for Howard Stern, shouted out, “Were you fully erect? America wants to know. Fully erect, are you more than 7 inches?”

Words are inadequate, and to describe Bronk as a journalist is an insult to journalists. And the irony is, it’s the congressman who was tried and executed for acts committed in privacy while Bronk, and his boss Howard Stern, only benefit from public, lewd and lascivious behavior. But despite the height of impropriety, Bronk may have a point. A large slice of America does want to know. They just won’t admit it.

Interestingly enough, the pundits laid the blame on Weiner for the press conference spectacle. They were shocked he didn’t simply offer a written resignation and slink off to the shadows.

It’s hard to say if Americans will ever grow out of this. America was in large part, founded by Puritans, and the stigma of Puritanism is so deeply ingrained in American culture that it may be a permanent affliction. Yet the true affliction is hypocrisy.

“Toddlers and Tiaras” will continue to sexualize post infants, sex will sell everything from shampoo to car wax, teenage boys will wear their pants around their knees and teenage girls will shop at the Hooters outlet store but still, we’re outraged when private acts become public and stunned that the perpetrator would feel compelled to lie about it.

Two things need to change, socially and technologically. One’s an easy fix: Put the “Send All” button on all smart devices as far away as possible, and insert a “are you certain you want to send all?” warning while you’re at it.

The second is not such in easy fix. We suffer a glut of moralists. Social Conservatives have the nation by the throat and that is not going to change anytime soon. But someday, perhaps our culture can admit that smart people do stupid things when it comes to sex and at the end of the day, those stupid things are a bedroom discussion between that smart person, and that smart person’s wife, husband or partner.

Cheating on one’s partner is not an excuse to make hay for political gain or for cheap entertainment. We’re better than that, and we have far more important fish to fry.

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