Kind of a weird title here but I really have the urge to weave all of these together after reading an article in the New York Times today.
The article concerns Newt Gingrich and how he is using faith and God to reconnect with the Republican base in order to burnish his image after three divorces. Due to my background where I spent many-a-year in Catholic school as well as my international travels I’d like to make a few points that I find interesting.
First, the article: On the Stump, Gingrich Puts Focus on Faith – NYT
1. Politicians that cheat on their wives
It would seem that we cannot go a month without a scandal in which some US politician cheats on his wife. It makes national news, a press conference is often called and the wife stands next to her cheating husband looking shell shocked while he tried to defend himself.
Here is a quick list of the most recents:
Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Jim McGreevey, Eliot Spitzer, Gov. Paterson, Mayor Villiaraigosa (L.A.), Mayor Gavin Newsome (S.F.), Gary Condit, Gary Hart. Republicans: Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Larry Craig, Mark Foley, John Ensign, David Vitter, Robert Livingston, Don Sherwood.
As this blog concentrates on the international, my point here is going to be unexpected.
My question is, why does the USA make such a big deal out of it? Why does there always have to be an inquisition?
If you are a normal American reader you may be shocked that I even ask the question. You may say that the cheating politician deserves to be flayed publicly and tossed out on his can from both the office and home.
If I look at my experiences abroad however, this is not always the case in every country. In fact, it is rarely the case in other countries. It seems like only in the USA do we make such a public spectacle and confer damnation every single time. Let’s take a look at some other countries and their experiences.
– France is a country where your private life stays private, even for politicians. It may make some news but the politician can still win elections quite easily. If we look at Sarkozy, he has quite a track record and even divorced one wife while in office!
1. Marie-Dominique Culioli – Divorced her in 1996
2. Cécilia Ciganer-Albéniz – Divorced her in 2007 – While in office!
3. Carla Bruni – He picked up this third wife shortly after trading one supermodel for another.
Now it is reported they are cheating on each other!
Yet, there is very little debate in France and no inquisition from the government. It seems that the following quote describes the French opinion quite clearly.
” L’amour est un jeu où vous trichez toujours ” – Honore de Balzac (Love is a game in which one always cheats)
If you’ve read any news at all the past year then you would have seen that Silvio Berlusconi is a master playboy. He doesn’t follow this divorced get remarried nonsense, he does things properly! Instead he just flies the flavor of the month to his villa for a bit of fun.
Then, his political opponents pick up on this and try to damage him by making it very public and calling for an investigation. The reason they do this is that Berlusconi is like a King in Italy and it is almost impossible to damage him in other ways.
However, the only shock seems to come from the women. It has been said that many of the men no only do not disapprove but actually admire him and if given the chance would like to BE HIM!
Hard to find a good quote for this but I suppose I could use the following
“Se rhu priesc-te fosse vuone, se presc-tesse piure la moglie.” – “If the loan is made well, one can even lend one’s wife.” And applied to Berlusconi, well, he already has enough money so in Italian how do you say, “If you have enough money, you can do away with the wife altogether?”
So yes, there is some scrutiny here but it is mostly the opposition’s doing rather than rage from the electorate.
Now we’ve just gone from bad, to worse to comical. Politicians here just keep an apartment for their affairs or they could make use of the hostess bars / love hotels. In Japan, this kind of scandal never even gets reported nor is there any interest. From the following quote, it would appear that even the women prefer it this way!
亭主元気で留守がいい – “A good husband is healthy and out of the house”
To be fair, this really means that the father should be out of the house to be making money. In Japanese society, the men are enslaved to their jobs and rarely around anyway. The contract is more like the women should take care of the kids and house and the men bring home the Yen…. that’s it! It terms of making for an “Americanesque” type of relationship where everything is lovey dovey,,, well the Japanese really don’t do that sort of thing.
We can see that other countries keep politicians private affairs private for the most part unless the opposition smells an opportunity in the case of Italy. Why does America always make such a big deal?
Why is it that when a politician has just crashed and burned they all suddenly seem to “find faith?” This gets highly annoying! Since 100% of them find the Christian faith I wonder how Jesus would deal with all these Prodigal Sons. I bet that after the upteenth time a politician came looking for forgiveness he would strike that parable from the Bible.
Further, I was very curious to see that Newt chose Catholicism over the more standard Protestant version. If you are unaware, the only President to ever be Catholic is JFK and things didn’t turn out so well for him. One of the main reasons is that the Protestants are very prickly should the Pope have any influence over the President.
As I read the article, I wondered if Newt had received annulments for his divorces. Sure, Catholics divorce all the time without them but seeing as he is a new convert, the rules are a bit more strict in his case. I don’t believe he would be allowed to marry his third wife in a Catholic church without one so I wonder how that worked out for him. But, seeing as he is pretty powerful the rule was most likely overlooked. (I don’t know and am too lazy to look it up)
I also wonder how effective of a leader he can be if it took him 67 years to finally figure out that Catholicism is the “right” religion (tongue in cheek here).
Finally, it is interesting that in a country that claims to have separation of Church and State that faith plays such a big role in electing a leader. Just think about it, when the leader of a Muslim country uses Allah and Islam for political reasons, Americans would be aghast, terrified and condemn this. Yet, when the same God by a different name is used in their own country this is seen as a positive.
In the article I saw the word “delighted” twice when used to describe the feelings of Gingrich supporters when they learned he had converted to Catholicism.
This got me thinking about how many times I have heard the word “excited” as well as other emotional adjectives used to describe whether someone supports something or not.
Perhaps it stuck me as funny since words when used much to often suddenly start sounding strange. Then, you question yourself as to if you really understand the meaning so I looked it up.
Excited – “in an aroused state”
Perhaps I did this because I am a language buff or perhaps I was just tired of hearing it used in order to sell me something.
Then I overthink it and try to understand if it is a cultural thing in the USA. Let me give an example.
“I am excited to inform you that Newt is now a Christian!”
I – Pronoun – My opinion is very important and you should think so too.
Excited – Adjective – My mental state is aroused and by my being aroused I would like for you to be aroused as well. I support Newts conversion and the best reason as to why is because it arouses me? No real reasons were given as to why these people were “delighted” but I can assume it is simply that he has chosen the same religion as them and thus they should just say this. “Well, Newt now believes in the same religion I do, thus my arousal.”
Why would people think their excitement should inherently make me excited as well. Their emotional state concerning the subject at hand should have no influence on my mental state so why would they even want to inform me that the subject which arouses them should arouse me as well?
Sorry to have gone off the deep end here, it is just that I have heard people become “excited” about 1000 times when trying to pitch me a product as though their excitement should make me excited as well. Further, the products were really something that should not have made them excited……… really.
I guess what I was looking for in the article is a well thought out reason why Newts conversion should “delight” these people other than that their emotional state was now aroused. Give me a reason why I should buy/support rather than it excites you for heaven’s sakes.
If you had gotten an invitation to one of Silvio Berlusconi’s parties, now that my friend, would be a reason to be excited!