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First, let me lie to you: these are my opinions, it's okay with me if you disagree, I won't judge you harshly for disagreeing. Why did I just call that a lie? Because intellectually, that is what I believe about my own beliefs. What makes me think that I'm lying to myself when I say that, though, and what makes me think I'd be lying if I said that to you without disclaimer, is just how angry I get when I see a politician get savaged in the media for days at a time over shit I just think is completely unfair, unreasonable, or even if it's just shit that I think is no big deal, and how angry I get when I see someone skate on something that really pisses me off personally. I don't want to be angry at anybody who disagrees with me on any of the following, and I absolutely will hear any reasoned or emotionally honest argument for principles that contradict mine. I just can't promise to be 100% calm and non-judgmental about your opinions, just as I find out that I don't even want to try, any more than anybody else does, to be completely non-judgmental about some of the scandals themselves.

First, some principles, then I'll cite a few famous examples:

One: I really, really, really, more than anything else, give a shit about consent. Any sex scandal that whiffs of physical force pisses me off. Any sex scandal that even faintly hints of abuse of wealth, privilege, or any other form of power over the other partner pisses me off even more. If the accused didn't wait for consent or ask for consent, I'm angry; if they "asked" for consent under circumstances where the person who was asked faced punishment for saying no, I'm even angrier.

Two: I give a shit about favoritism. Even if the accused didn't offer anybody else the opportunity to benefit from their authority, if I find out that someone is accused of abusing their position to grant favors to someone that they've had sex with, I get very angry on behalf of all of the other people in the office who were wondering, "who do I have to blow to get ahead here?" and who find out that they were right, who have been told that blowing the boss is how you get ahead in life.

Three: It's not a deal breaker for me, but it's a bad sign if someone is accused of being callous or indifferent to people they voluntarily assumed responsibility for. That especially means the kids; you volunteered to have those kids, they didn't volunteer to be parented by you. Cheating on the mother or father of your children is one thing, good or bad, but doing so in a way that humiliates the spouse or that ruins life for the kids makes you a bad person, in my eyes. I give partial credit for the attempt, here; you tried to protect the kids from it afterwards and failed is better than you didn't give a shit if your kids got hurt by it.

Four: I care about official corruption, and so in theory I care if you spend company money or (worse) public funds on things like travel, hotel rooms, or meals to be with the person you love, especially if where you're working or the position you hold doesn't officially grant liberal "you can bring a friend along on our dime" perqs. On the other hand, I've softened my stance on this over the years, as it's come home to me how many violations of this principle are about protecting the higher principle of discretion to protect others; if somebody can't travel without it being official travel, and that's the only way to see someone they love, or if it's the only way they can see someone they love without having to put it out in public where their spouse or kids will be humiliated by it? I disapprove, but only mildly.

Five: As long as it doesn't violate any of the rules above, I honestly don't give a shit about "traditional values of marriage" and I don't give much of a shit about "sacred oaths" that are traditional, that people didn't get any input into, that were thus less than entirely voluntarily given, as in "I have to stand up and say these magic words to get the person I love onto my health insurance." A promise made under coercion is not morally binding. Given how young and dumb most people are when they swear out their marriage vows, I give even more slack. As Mark Twain said, marriage is two people who, in the grip of the most fleeting and insupportable of passions, rush directly to the altar of God and swear to remain that way forever.

Six: Other than worn-down, mostly meaningless ceremonial oaths, I do give a shit if you break your word. But if you at least tried to keep your word, I only barely give a shit.

Seven: I do not give a shit if you are "on my side" or not. I don't make excuses for bad behavior by Democrats, not even fellow liberals or progressives; I don't hold Republicans or conservative Democrats to higher standards.

Eight: I only give a shit about hypocrisy if it's something you built your career on, if it's something you spend a lot of time going on about. Some random politician who mostly campaigns on tax and regulation and foreign policy issues, who checked off a box on some "family values" questionnaire about "protecting traditional values" who had an affair? *yawn* Someone whose whole career in politics has been about "traditional family values" or, worse, who hounded some other politician out of office over their affair, who gets caught in an affair? That one pisses me off. Although, even then, it doesn't have to be a total deal-breaker; I can show some sympathy for someone who agonizes over it. Life is complicated. I feel no compassion towards someone who says "it's different when I do it," though.

Nine: As you might imagine from this, I honestly don't give a shit if you tell me "they lied about it." Of course they did. It would be unreasonable to expect them to do otherwise. Tell me how that lie callously or indifferently hurt someone, and it falls under #3, above, but otherwise, what did you expect them to do? When you catch a little kid with his hand in the cookie jar and cookie crumbs all over his face, and you ask him, "Did you take a cookie?" the kid doesn't lie; he answers the question he hears, which is, "Are you volunteering to be punished?" Telling the truth about it when you're caught, even if you didn't have to, can make a slight favorable impression on me, but I don't hold it against people when they harmlessly lie.

Ten: I have an unreasonable bias, one I'd complain about in other people, towards people in consensual non-monogamous relationships or other non-traditional relationships. On the one hand, I think this is an unfair bias of mine, because when the supposedly naturally monogamous insist on judging others harshly for their lack of monogamy, it pisses me off; I sometimes justify my prejudice by hoping that someone who has been a victim of prejudice will have learned tolerance from it; I know that I'm lying to myself about this because I know that what a lot of victims or prejudice learn is the importance of being the one who gets to enforce their prejudices. So while I can't prevent my feelings about this, I try hard to question myself when I find myself looking favorably on someone for this reason.

Now, those principles being stated, I'll address specific sex scandals in the comments; if you have one you want to ask about that I didn't bring up, do so as a direct reply to this journal entry so it gets its own comment thread, please.



Nov. 29th, 2011 05:57 am (UTC)
How do you feel about outing gay politicians who are trying to keep their homosexual behavior private/secret?
Nov. 29th, 2011 06:11 am (UTC)
Larry Craig, etc
I used to hate this more than I do.

One thing I've had brought home to me, over recent years, is just how much pressure anti-gay prejudice inflicts on gay men in particular. It's probably more common than not for teenage boys, panicked over what life will be like if they admit to themselves or anyone else that they're gay, to bargain with God: let me marry a woman so attractive that even I'm attracted to her, and I'll never look at another man ever again so long as I live. And then not be able to live up to that promise.

Bob Heinlein said, in The Moon is Harsh Mistress, that nobody ever proposes that the government outlaw something that they're doing, only the stuff that their neighbors are doing that they don't like, but I've come to see that he was wrong about that. There are a lot of gay men who hate it when they lust after (or actually have sex with) men, and who believe the classic American superstition that says that anybody can do anything if you threaten them enough, who actually think that if they succeed in making it punitive enough to be gay, that'll finally stop them from being gay. If it weren't for the damage they inflict on others, I'd be able to pity them for it; as it is, I hate them not for the gay cheating on their wives, but for the laws themselves whether they're cheating on their wives or not. (Although most of them are. Nobody else cares enough to run on this issue, any more.)

And what do you feel for someone who didn't even know he was gay, who was a late maturer, who never fell in love with anybody in his life until after he went into a career that's closed off to gay men, like the ministry or American politics? Do you expect that man to give up his career? Isn't it far more likely he's going to feel that he has no choice but to lie?
Nov. 29th, 2011 12:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Larry Craig, etc
I'm curious how Barney Frank fits into your last paragraph, or more interestingly, if it's possible for other national-level politicians to come out the way he did rather than live in the closet as long as they're in politics.
Nov. 29th, 2011 06:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Larry Craig, etc
Isn't it far more likely he's going to feel that he has no choice but to lie?

There is always a choice. It's just not always an easy one. Every once in a while, one is faced with a situation where one has to make a choice between integrity (doing what one believes is the right thing to do), and practicality, even if making the right choice can be quite costly. Judging by how many scandals one reads about (let alone the ones one never hears about), it seems like very few are willing to make the hard choice.
Nov. 30th, 2011 01:08 am (UTC)
Re: Larry Craig, etc
Thank you for the comment on Heinlein. Just one of the long list of things he was wrong about, but a clear pattern running through these.

I wonder how many of the Drys were alcoholics?
Dec. 8th, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Larry Craig, etc
My anger and distate at such politicians is in direct proportion as to how much they violate Rule Eight.

I've actually harshened somewhat with regard to "outing" politicians, and feel that those that consistently, actively try to make life worse for gay people, who themselves keep a boy on the side or cruise bathrooms or visit rentboy.com -- I don't care how conflicted they are, if their actions and cowardice have a direct impact on me and people I love, I won't tolerate it. Out the jerkwad.

If they're closeted, even married, but (at minimum) otherwise quietly vote down discrimination (or, stretching it, simply fail to vote on it at all), they can have my pity and my silence. I still think they're a coward, but there are plenty of times in my life I've failed to do the right thing out of fear, so, shutting up now.

Mary Cheney falls into this for me; though out, she's of the "I've got mine" mindset and is so insulated by virtue of privilege and power from the consquences of her actions, that she can support some execrable politicians/policies in order to line her pockets without feeling the sting of their outcomes. It's very Marie Antoinette-ish.