It’s a beautiful spring day, which you have to treasure in Texas. We all know that the summer inferno — our local version of the long Russian winters — is lurking around the corner. My husband always says that summers should be sweltering and unbearable, though, and I think he has a point. For anyone who’s lived here for decades, as we have, it’s a point of pride. We didn’t walk to school battling blizzards, but we did grow up without central air-conditioning, sleeping next to rotating fans and turning our pillows over and over to try to find the cool side. Jeez, talk about character-building experiences we can brag to our kids about.
Besides the glorious weather, it’s almost 10 a.m. and I haven’t heard one word or punctuation mark about another political sex scandal. I’m sick of the sordid details, the confessions, the muck, the hotel descriptions, the Tammy Wynette wives, the how-could-she-do-it? I’d-kill-the-sorry-creep criticisms of the Tammy Wynette wives, the diatribes against alpha males. I also prefer not to know that Eliot Spitzer’s girlfriend du jour had a “magical vagina.” This only serves to remind me that I know very little about vaginas, magical or otherwise, and I’d prefer to keep it that way. For a few days, can’t we just, like, talk about something else?
In an era of too much information, do we really understand other people — or ourselves — better? Or do we simply know more details? I listened to an NPR segment on politicians’ health — and the secrets they’ve successfully kept — this morning. FDR, for example, forbade his ever being photographed in a wheelchair, sure that the country would never elect a candidate crippled by polio. You could argue that the public’s right to know about a candidate’s health was thwarted here. But can you tell me who would have been a better president for his time than FDR?
“I’d never vote for Hillary Clinton,” a male friend told me recently. “She didn’t leave her husband after he cheated on her. That goes directly to character.” Sorry, but I don’t think it’s nearly that simple. I think it speaks to the Clintons’ marriage, period. If I want evidence of Hillary Clinton’s character, I can look at the way she’s voted in the Senate, the campaign methods she’s used in the Democratic primary, the biographies her life has spawned.
After all these weeks and years of revelations and shenanigans, I don’t pretend to understand this private-gone-public world — which I find alternately confusing and saddening and infuriating. I do understand a few other matters, though. While we’re talking about the Mayflower Hotel and magical vaginas and wifely perp walks, 4,000 Americans and countless Iraqis have died in an illegitimate war that has wrecked our country’s reputation and made our world more dangerous. Our economy is tanking and the dollar is shrinking.
But why should we worry? We have a president who has famously never cheated on his wife who’s dancing the softshoe at public events, pretending he’s Fred Astaire the way he once pretended he was a soldier. And Dick Cheney, details of whose marital and non-marital sex life have been mercifully omitted from the national discourse, courting peace in the Middle East. Dick Cheney!
Maybe I can’t, precisely, define character or delineate what should be public knowledge and what shouldn’t be. But I do know a few things.
I do know a national disgrace when I see it.
And central air-conditioning in the long Texas summers? Now, that’s magical.