Excessive,” “overdone,” “tedious,” “boring,” “endless,” “interminable.” These are just a few of the adjectives of desperation people have been using to describe the Media’s relentless coverage of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. In the face of these incessant protests, however, the coverage rolls on, like a freight train out of control.
One popular ploy that members of the Media use in order to maintain the interest of the masses is the promise of revealing “the untold story.” Yet the “untold story” is told again and again ad nauseam, while the real “untold story” remains untold. And it remains untold because it remains undiscovered.
Why does a man of Bill Clinton’s age, status, and education, risk throwing away everything for a fling with a young intern whom the Media cruelly, but not entirely falsely, describes as a “ditzoid,” a “portly pepperpot,” and by other images that are even less flattering? Night after night, television hosts assemble experts on the matter along with various celebrities who express their utter disbelief that the president of the United States could behave so – well, stupidly! “If he had to have an affair,” they ask, in a state of sheer bewilderment, “could he not have selected a woman who is more mature, discreet, and closer to his age?”
Bankrupt of answers, they confess that the matter is totally unbelievable, and then sheepishly acknowledge that the “untold story” is still untold. But they remain committed to the search. Stay tuned.
Our society prides itself on being candid and explicit about things that previous generations were quite reticent about. Such pride is without foundation. We may be more tongue-tied today about commonplace realities than the most taciturn of 17th-century Puritans ever were. We now hear references made to marriage, commitment, and suicide, for example, in terms of the dreaded “m,” “c,” and “s” words. But we are also “brain-tied,” and have trouble freeing our grey matter from its straightjacket of political correctness to see what lies at the bottom of such things as “the untold story.”
President Clinton behaved stupidly. This is the one point on which everybody appears to agree. Yet he is not a stupid man. Indeed, he is not only intelligent and well educated, he is exceedingly clever. He also operates with a coterie of world-class advisors. Hence the mystery and the need to find “the untold story.”
What makes an intelligent man behave stupidly? This was not in the least difficult to understand by nearly everyone in human history until rather recently when people decided that virtue is not necessary as long as you have intelligence, influence, power, fame, and a battery of good lawyers. But human beings are still made of clay and therefore need virtues in order to keep their intelligence operating intelligently so that it can transfer to their actions.
People have known for millennia that certain weaknesses in the human fabric – the Deadly Sins, they called them – can obscure, blind, or overthrow reason so effectively that man, the rational animal, begins to behave as Bozo the trousered (or untrousered) ape.
To be more specific, lust, one of the Deadly Sins, has the power of short-circuiting the delicate wiring of human intelligence. In this sad state, dispossessed of his capacity for intelligent thinking, man is reduced to the object of his lust.
There is a remedy for lust. But the remedy, in our time, is blacklisted, for it contradicts and embarrasses our ideological commitment to an unrealistic belief that we can exercise choice with impunity. The antidote is a “c” word, but this time the “c” stands for chastity – which is simply the virtue that ensures that sex and reason are still connected to each other. The Russian word for chastity makes this very clear. Tselomudrie means “the wisdom of wholeness.”
Clinton is not a man of chastity. He is defenseless in the face of lust. His lust (rather than “passion”) undoes his reason and turns him into its own plaything. This is “the untold story.” But few want to tell it since it undermines the weak basis on which we have established our hedonistic society. With virtue, the person is in charge. Without virtue, vice reigns. And it is a consummate human tragedy that man, who is destined to rule, is ruled by his vices when his virtues are not in place. The Clinton scandal takes on a particularly humiliating quality because the man who is supposed to be America’s ruler, is himself ruled by lust. In this context, maybe chastity can begin to look good enough to begin a comeback.