Monday, March 26, 2018

Chaos Theory: Politics in America

I sense people trying to achieve an intelligible synthesis of actress Stormy Daniels, the President of the United States, and society. Let me make it simple for you: it's none of your business.  

Western society has declined because of backlash against elitist judgment that reaches through our private doors and knows no limits. It's not democracy per se that failed, but the lawyers, judges, journalists, newscasters, media executives, and teachers whose job was minding the store while everyone else did the real work that created a sustainable community. 

Gossip is nothing new, of course. Brandeis still has the best lines on the subject: 

When personal gossip attains the dignity of print, and crowds the space available for matters of real interest to the community, what wonder that the ignorant and thoughtless mistake its relative importance. Easy of comprehension, appealing to that weak side of human nature which is never wholly cast down by the misfortunes and frailties of our neighbors, no one can be surprised that it usurps the place of interest in brains capable of other things. Triviality destroys at once robustness of thought and delicacy of feeling. No enthusiasm can flourish, no generous impulse can survive under its blighting influence.

What is Stormy Daniels but trivial gossip? Unlike Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky's affair, not a scintilla of wrongdoing exists between herself and the current president. There is no unequal bargaining power, no lies, and no alleged force. We have only a publicity-seeking character arrested for domestic violence--admittedly a tame episode where we learn the "star's" husband's father was washing laundry in a house not his own--eagerly anticipating a payday even larger than the generous one already received. (Say what you want about Ms. Lewinsky, but her 24 year-old self never wanted or needed cash or publicity: "I never expected to fall in love with the President. I was surprised that I did."

I am well-aware I am defending a man whose actions and words are often indefensible, but unlike my so-called liberal colleagues, I also understand the man comes with an office, one that will remain long after a Presidential library is defiled with a copy of The Art of the Deal. In short, permanence exists even if every gear within its structure cranks towards the chaotic, and it is because of this permanence that we must act according to some principle other than prurience. 

Consequently, anyone supporting Stormy should note two uncomfortable details about the current media storm: it is Ms. Daniels who breached an agreement and violated its terms; and it is Ms. Daniels who was paid 130,000 USD and violated her word, not for a higher principle or to expose wrongdoing, but for more publicity and more money. One doesn't need a high IQ to realize what ought to been a private affair has now become yet another meandering distraction threatening to further erode whatever credibility mainstream journalism and media have left. Furthermore, I do not know who or what will bring down a president, but a person who lacks integrity is not--and should not be--the vehicle that ends this car crash Americans call a presidency. 

I have now wasted my time writing about an incident that should have remained between two consenting adults, with or without an NDA. How many interesting, good people have avoided pubic office because Americans have normalized their role as third parties to the violation of someone else's privacy? More importantly, what principle does America stand for in the year 2018? Obviously not privacy or integrity. Why, then, is anyone surprised the presidential office is held by someone the natural result of such a void? George Carlin once remarked, 

Now, there's one thing you might have noticed I don't complain about: politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don't fall out of the sky. They don't pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It's what our system produces: garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you're going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain't going to do any good; you're just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it's not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here... like, the public. 

In my previous post, I scolded an 84 year-old politician for bullying an American basketball player. I knew then I was wasting my breath, and I know I'm wasting my breath now. A society that cannot self-regulate its voyeurism will soon lose respect for privacy and other essential values. Its lawyers will spew more paper, but their paper-pushing will be worthless without a greater menace: a growing and expensive police state ready and able to carry out their words, diverting funding from more useful or compassionate enterprises. A best case scenario where insurance companies run the country even more than they do now isn't palatable to anyone decent. 

In fact, I remember speaking with an insurance company lawyer's daughter when I was in law school and mocking her father's chosen profession. She later told me her father wanted her to ask me, "How exactly does he plan on changing the world?" I didn't have an answer then, but I have one today: "By not being an insurance company lawyer." Similarly, you, too, can have an answer when presented with an opportunity to judge a person's bedroom behavior or any other consensual behavior between two adults: "Just say no." 

Over a long enough timeline, given a choice between being a moral busybody and an agent of chaos, I--and anyone else desiring a life worth living--will pick chaos every single time. Apparently, so will the American people. Would that they had better choices. 

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