Herman Cain, Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner: Leaders, Heroes, And Double Standards

December 2, 2011
Written by Janice S. Ellis... in
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Presidential hopeful, Herman Cain, faces uphill battle against allegations. Photo Credit: csmonitor.com

The specter of tuning in to the unfolding expose of the private life of Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain’s alleged extra-marital escapade after escapade brings to mind the plethora of double standards that govern our lives.

It is a kind of public-private schizophrenia. We are one person in private, another in public. We tolerate, and indeed, practice certain behavior in our private lives while we eschew and condemn the same behavior in others.

This is particularly true in how we apply double standards to our elected officials and other leaders. Privately, many people tolerate, if not participate in adulterous affairs. However, as soon as it is revealed that an elected official is guilty of committing the same act, we become indignant, intolerant. Family and fidelity suddenly become sacrosanct.

Often, the same is true with the revelation of indulgence in other vices by our leaders whether it is pot smoking, cocaine tooting, or alcohol guzzling. Many of us have the attitude of it is okay for me, but not for them.

But isn’t something wrong with this picture?

altWhy do we persist in functioning on this double-standard hypocritical plane? “Some things are okay for me to do, but not my leader.” It is reminiscent of a parent saying to a child, “Do as I say, and not as I do.”

We function by and under so many double standards in our public and private lives, perhaps it would take a lifetime to get rid of them all. But, examining a few, and if not getting rid of them at least put them in their proper place, may go far in serving the public’s interest. And, one is the double standard we use to judge our leaders and heroes.

Is it realistic to expect heroes and leaders — who are also human — not display many of the same facets of human nature, good and bad, like the rest of humankind? Are we unfairly looking to our leaders and heroes to make up for the imperfections within ourselves?

Lechery, larceny, and the practice of excessive indulgence from food to booze, from male seduction to womanizing have been with us since creation. Religious and political history is replete with examples of the failings and fury of succumbing to such human weaknesses. Yet, we often rush to judgment as we unfairly ruin lives, wreck careers, and trash otherwise good and effective leaders.

We would do well to remember: Morality, good character and integrity can not be legislated. Perhaps we need to stop looking for perfect lives in our leaders and heroes. Human perfection does not exist. It never has and likely never will.

When the infamous edict, “Those without a blemish cast the first stone,” was issued, do you recall how many stones were thrown?

Isn’t it time we shifted our focus? Direct our energy and resources on things we can affect?

altFor more than a year, we watched as the leader of the free world, President Bill Clinton, had his most private indiscretions exposed. With one Clinton episode after the other, haven’t we — the public and the media — learned anything?

The real question to be debated and resolved: What falls within the realm of an elected or appointed official’s privacy rights vs. the public’s right to know? Imagine what would happen if the media focused more on educating the public on the issues rather than exposing the foibles of human nature and imperfect relationships?

There are many avenues and outlets to satisfy the insatiable appetite for the base within us. We can always read a racy novel, go to a movie, and follow any one of the daytime or nighttime soap operas or sitcoms.

I don’t know about you, but I am not ready for another detailed unfolding of the private lives of public figures like former Congressman Anthony Weiner, or other fallen elected officials at the local, state, or national level, or any other present or future effective leader.

Effective leaders are often rendered ineffective by the perpetuation of allegations (real or contrived) of moral failings or some other side show perpetuated by the media to satisfy ratings and our appetite for the salacious.

When it comes to leaders and heroes, we need to focus on what they have done to make them strong leaders and heroic in improving the plight of one or more human beings, our economy, our environment, the quality of education and other more important issues and challenges that we face.

If we aren’t careful, our penchant for peering into private lives looking for the sensational will consume us, when we should be putting our undivided attention toward other things.

While there is no honor in being a dishonest adulterous politician, there isn’t any honor in being a peeping tom or hypocrite either.