A Matter of Scale
There was much hand-wringing this week over issues of “national importance,” like (1) a former general’s marital infidelities, (2) whether the president won re-election by the inappropriate giving of gifts and, oh right, (3) the question of states seceding from the Union.
1. Honestly, I feel sorry for David Petreus. He’s obviously smart but he also seems like a very sad little man.
What started this “grand revelation” wasn’t some backroom, dark-ops way to protect the president from embarrassing revelations about Benghazi. That’s just right-wing nonsense-dreams. This happened because an overly “zealous” FBI agent wanted to have sex with a comely (albeit married) woman he knows, and when his text to her of himself shirtless didn’t do the trick (BTW, does it ever?), he went outside bureau rules and uncovered evidence of (my heavens) an extramarital affair involving the former general and current CIA director.
I don’t happen to think CIA Director is a position that requires some special level of moral authority based on leading an unblemished personal life. If it did, no one would be able to occupy it. Ever. Same goes, I think, for generals. I don’t think about their personal lives and I don’t want to. I don’t care that Petreus is married or what he had for breakfast or that he had an extramarital affair. I care that, as a general, he figured a way to get American combat troops out of Iraq. I care that he faithfully supported the administrations he served. I care that he seemed to do all the hard and thankless jobs other, less capable people kept dumping on him, to the best of his ability.
This continuing national preoccupation with the sexual behavior of public figures is embarrassing, unhealthy and, I believe, unintentionally reveals a twisted pathology of those who most strongly call for resignations, humiliations and punishments.
For no good reason, Petreus had to resign; it’s our loss.
2. Did Barack Obama promise “gifts” to potential voters as a direct inducement to improperly get their votes, or are Mitt Romney and certain fringe Republicans just sore losers who still can’t believe they lost the election?
The question is rhetorical but there’s still an answer: sore losers. End of story.
3. Secession? Seriously? Your guy doesn’t get elected president and, right away, it’s “I’m leaving this party.”
Let’s look at this “firestorm” for exactly what it is. Led by an all-out effort in (Surprise!) Texas, the online secession petitions have gathered something over 700,000 signatures (at writing time). That’s a whopping 0.022 percent of the US population. My hand to God, I think I could get that many people to sign a petition making French toast our national bird. Let’s compare that percentage to another small part of the country’s population that was (in contrast to secession) completely ignored recently, namely the number of our fellow citizens who voted for Gary Johnson (the Libertarian candidate) in the election – about 1 million votes, or 1.2 percent of the votes cast in the states in which he appeared on the ballot.
So, is this an anemic stunt or a failed but serious movement?
If it’s intended as a stunt, it isn’t interesting, it isn’t funny, it isn’t going anywhere and, therefore, isn’t worth people’s attention.
If it’s intended as a serious movement, I find it insane beyond my words. Consider our history. The last time we had a serious secession movement, it was settled by the costliest, bloodiest, most damaging conflict in our country’s history. And as I’ve said before to friends, that is rain we do not want to call down lightly. Rational Americans do not want to call it down again, period.
But, secessionists, don’t give up hope completely. If I ever were to compile a list of states I’d happily bid a fond adieu (Note to separatist Texans: That’s French for “see ya later.”), congratulations, Texas, you would be at my list’s very tip top.
(Don’t worry, Arizona, you can make it; just try a little harder.)