Lee Siegel, in Saturday’s "Daily Beast." articulated and augmented my response to the responses to Anthony Weiner’s sexting or whatever it was to women unknown to him. Almost everyone’s question is: what was he thinking? Almost everyone’s answer is: he should resign.
My questions and answers are different. What are these people thinking? What are Democrats thinking? What are Republicans thinking? Perhaps the question should be: are these people thinking? And what do the rest of us do about them—they are the majority—in light of the answers?
As a matter of decorum—wonderfully old-fashioned word; does anyone know today what it means?—Weiner’s messages or pictures leave much—indeed, just about everything—to be desired. Those who seek his resignation are objecting to what—public indecency? I do not want to believe that is the answer, but it must be the answer, because no one has demonstrated one scintilla of damage to anyone involved at either end of the sexting messages because of the sexting. Of course, the hue-and-cry about Weiner has damaged him and perhaps his wife and friends. But real harm otherwise—nada.
Where were all those who object to Weiner’s sexting—a manifestation of some self-damaging personal disorder, which deserves more sympathy than censure—in other recent cases? Where were they when they learned of David Vinter’s adultery and criminal solicitation of prostitutes? David is back in the Senate. Where were they when we learned of John Ensign’s adultery with a staffer and wife of another staffer, then a criminal family payout to hush the matter up, then his office’s criminal efforts to secure work for the staffer’s husband? John had over a year in the Senate and resigned only to avoid a Senate Ethics Committee’s recommendation that he be expelled.
I could go on, as Lee Siegel does, but the point is clear: misbehavior in the virtual world now trumps misbehavior in the real world. I do not want to be excused—I started to write, excuse me—for saying that this preference for what is virtual to what is real is deranged, and far more seriously than Anthony Weiner’s vicarious titillations enabled by social networking.
A friend, a professor of English at Cornell University, believed in the 60s that Americans needed mass psychotherapy. I thought he was wrong then, but I am sure that he is right now.
I have just learned that Weiner is seeking therapy. Good for him. And good for his constituents for keeping their wits about them and supporting a man who has been a good representative for them. I wonder how well Weiner’s naysayers have served anyone but themselves and—speaking of indecency—are abusing a disturbed individual.