Thursday, June 25, 2009

Blame It On Buenos Aires: The Mark Sanford Story

Yet another erotico-political saga is unfolding before our eyes. The respectable governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, has managed to turn his life into a Harlequin romance.

Read the emails between Mark and Maria here.

Sanford seems to have wanted to see his love affair as Biblical, but it is far more banal than that. When he talks about following his heart, when he writes erotic emails, when he drops everything to rush off to see his love... all of that comes from romance fiction. Don't ask me how I know.

Yet, Sanford was quoting Paul's disquisition on love from 1st Corinthians in an email to his mistress.

If Sanford thought that Paul was talking about romantic love, then he needs to find a new Bible studies group.

What is it that makes otherwise sensible people believe that there is a transcendent virtue in making their lives into soap operas?

It would be better if they took heed of the words of Daniela Drake that I read this morning on the Wowowow website: "Romantic love is not some utopian state of high moral rectitude; it's an emotion, and therefore fleeting. Science now shows that being in love lasts at most two years. One researcher calls 'being in love' a type of madness. Perhaps we shouldn't be making the decision to marry when we are temporarily insane."

I am sure that Drake would agree that we shouldn't make the decision to break up a marriage when we are temporarily insane either.

These words arrive too late for the hapless governor, though he could certainly have gleaned the same message from Shakespeare. Clearly, the moment he imagined that he could disappear for six days without anyone noticing was the moment when he took complete leave of his rational faculties.

Yesterday, Sanford apologized to everyone he could think of, in a discourse that seemed to be an inverse Oscar acceptance speech. But he could not keep it at that. He also managed to tell the story of how he had found true love.

An innocent conversation led to an innocent exchange of emails. That led to what he memorably called "that sparking thing."

Sanford seems to believe that it just happened, that a bolt of lightning or an errant match that found its way to the tinder box of his heart fueled a passionate conflagration. This makes it sound like he belived that his love affair with Maria Belen Shapur was God's will.

But this is simply not true. This kind of romance does not just happen. There is usually an invisible hand guilding it, even making it happen.

By all appearances, that hand was not the governor's.

Sad to have to say it, but Mark Sanford was a naif, a rube who got involved in a game he did not understand. He allowed himself to be seduced and did not even know that he was being seduced.

He is not the first powerful man to whom this happened, and will surely not be the last. The fact that a man has mastered the game of politics or business does not make him a sophisticate in the game of romance.

Whose fault was it? His, of course. A man who is husband, father, and governor should know better than to abrogate his responsibilities... no matter what the reason. Even if he succumbed to temptation-- apparently his Bible study class had never probed the subject-- his responsibilities were his and his alone to discharge or abandon.

Now, all that remains for the rest of us is to see the face that sunk Governor Sanford's political future.

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