Full-time dreamers are too distracted to hold public office
|by Stephen Reed|
The world has a place for dreamers. They are often the ones who entertain us and inspire us with their art, writings, and music. On occasion, the public square needs the vision that sometimes dreamers can provide. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream of racial equality in the U.S. comes to mind.
But not South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's form of dreaming. After listening to his recent Associated Press interview, followed by the reaction of many of his fellow Republicans in the Palmetto State's Senate, the disconnect between reality and Sanford's continued dreaminess about his Argentine affair has gone beyond morally repugnant to...well, what's the word?
Chuck Colson said recently in a BreakPoint commentary that where he finally ended up on this matter was bewilderment. That captures it well. Because with every public utterance since his return from South America last week, Governor Sanford shows himself unfit for duty. He can't help himself, it seems, as he treats us all to an incredible emotional gushing that says to one and all, "He isn't over her yet."
He calls the matter a "love story," not just an affair. Is this for his Argentine friend's eyes, just in case she is able to read The State newspaper online? He says that he is "trying to fall in love again" with his wife, Jenny, whose own public statements have been as positively extraordinary lately as her husband's comments have been abysmal. Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post--no conservative--says that Jenny Sanford has finally given America a new role model for wronged spouses: "neither enabler nor victim."
Before anyone in our romance-saturated culture gets the idea that dreamy Mark is to be pitied or admired for his clandestine love affair, let us first remember its cost to many: his sons now have a national laughingstock for a father--and may well have lost their family as they have known it.
Next, Mark and Jenny Sanford appear to have lost their marriage and all that they had worked on together in South Carolina--unless, of course, Jenny wants to run, in which case she could probably win hands down in the next gubernatorial sweeps there. No joke. People love a strong leader, and Jenny Sanford has shown more strength of character lately than anyone else in public life in America. So maybe the people of South Carolina have found in this mess just who is the leader in the Sanford family. If they're smart, they won't let her get away.
All marriages have their weak moments, perhaps even weak years. But if Mark Sanford had any real issues to raise, he should have brought them up to a marriage counselor long before it came to this. A pastoral counselor friend of mine once told me ruefully that people wait until they've worked on making a dysfunctional marriage for several years--then want a counselor to help them patch it up in a few counseling sessions! Unwinding the problems, getting to the root of them, takes longer oftentimes.
Something serious was amiss in the Sanford marriage. What a shame for everyone's sake that it wasn't dealt with much earlier. In the fishbowl of politics, even if both people are earnestly wanting to develop a better union, the pressure to look good for the cameras must be enormous. Fame has a way of making the weeds grow faster in our gardens.
(Images © Mary Ann Chastain, AP, and Alice Keeney, AP)