Just shut up and spare us your stupid tears.
Mark Sanford needs a new faith
The threat of eternal damnation didn't help the governor of South Carolina to keep his pants on
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 24 June 2009 22.15 BST
So. After a whirlwind few days of speculation regarding the whereabouts of Republican South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, we now have the answer. He was not, in fact, hiking on the Appalachian Trail clearing his head after a tough legislative session, as we were repeatedly assured by his staff, but was instead in Buenos Aires, Argentina, having an affair. Or ending an affair. Or something.
On Wednesday afternoon, Sanford tearfully took to the airwaves – sans stoic wife standing loyally alongside, in a refreshing change of pace – to hold a press conference in which he admitted the affair with a woman who became a "dear, dear friend" eight years ago after an incredibly earnest conversation about how she should get back together with her husband "for the sake of her two boys", then, in the last year, became his lover after their relationship "sparked into something more than that."
Five months ago, their relationship was discovered, since which time Sanford has been seeking help from a prayer group – but nonetheless spent "the last five days crying in Argentina" and ultimately deciding he's now "committed to trying to get [his] heart right in life." Whatever that means.
I won't belabour the obvious here: Sanford is a hypocrite in the extreme, not just any old family values conservative, but a Republican governor (contra Fox News) who also happens to be (until he resigned during his presser) the chair of the Republican governors' association. As one would expect from a professional member of the Sanctimonious Panty-Sniffers Brigade, he championed laws that seek to publicly legislate personal, adult, consensual sexual activities because they don't adhere to his preferred interpretation of one religious text, but now clamors for privacy to deal with his own personal, adult, consensual sexual activities, although they don't adhere to his preferred interpretation of one religious text, even as he would deny others the same right and respect.
One hopes he has the decency to revisit his position, and suspects he will not.
Because Sanford, you see, also took time during his press conference to assert: "There are moral absolutes, and God's law indeed is there to protect you from yourself." Ah, that old canard. We're all inherently disposed to do the wrong things and too weak to stop ourselves doing them on our own, so there must be laws – God's or otherwise.
It's the position of a man who cannot fathom that not all of us need the threat of eternal damnation, or the promise of salvation, to keep us in line, who cannot conceive that there are people who reject the idea of any one religion as the singular genesis of morality and have, instead, faith in humankind – faith that individuals can make the best decisions for themselves.
Sanford, on the other hand, subscribes to a faith that tells him humans, even himself among them, aren't worth having faith in. That's why he wants to legislate morality – because he doesn't trust people to make good decisions; he couldn't even trust himself and never had to, was never encouraged to have faith in himself to aspire to more. He needs rules, so he thinks we all do.
It's a terrible thing that the people who have the least faith in their fellow humans are most often called the "values voters", as if equality is not a value, and who have commandeered the term "faith", because, on this earth, humans are the only ones who can guarantee equality – and it's the humans who have the admittedly grotty and earthbound faith in one another who are the most likely to extend it.
Those of us who have faith in each other value a decidedly earthy humanness, with all its flaws and foibles. That doesn't sound particularly inspiring: there are no hymns, no psalms, no Hallelujah chorus for having faith in other people. But maybe there should be.
Maybe that's what Governor Sanford needs in order to change his tune.