FDR had a mistress named Daisy. We learned all about her and their "friendship" in the 2012 movie Hyde Park. Kennedy had Marilyn ... and others if all these biographies have an ounce of truth to them.
Despite their "personal stuff," the New Deal was signed. Heck, FDR nearly achieved 4 full terms in the Oval Office -- even with Daisy, polio, leg-braces and a wheelchair. And, under Kennedy's guidance, civil rights and public service took center stage, the peace corps was formed, and the challenge he set to place a man on the moon was achieved by his legacy.
The fact is FDR and Kennedy had dirty laundry. It was hidden from public view but it was still there ... a wave running underneath their political careers. Strangely though, at that time no one felt the necessity to drag it from the hamper and wave that dirty laundry around. The Press and the Public left them to lead the country. And their leadership capabilities were not called into question hourly in newspapers, on the evening news radio or on television. Or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
No one cared what they did in private as long as they did their job.
Somewhere in time, though, the tables turned. Why is that? Was it that we didn't know in "olden days" or that we weren't that concerned? And -- bigger question -- were we truly missing something in the "not knowing?" Are we better off plagued by a dizzying amount of information acquired through prying eyes, aggressive gossip and the rampant display of dirty laundry?
In the early 1900s, investigative journalism was born. It was called "muck-racking." The term is a reference to John Bunyan's classic novel Pilgrim's Progress -- the man with the muck rake rejected salvation to focus on filth. It was exciting ... prying into the hampers of the rich, famous, well-regarded elite. And it only seems to be growing worse ....
Nowadays, the world is less forgiving of imperfection, indiscretion or weakness. If there is a tiny bit of dirt in your hamper ... well, the public "needs to know." We have somehow become less willing to look away or turn the other cheek. There is an expectation that our stars and leaders be without flaw ... unblemished by mistakes, poor choices or scandal. Unrealistic a bit. But because the information is out there privacy is a concept of the past. We have access to everything ... so blinding spotlights are shown into dusty corners and under beds. Judgement and intolerance runs the show. The media airs dirty laundry like never before. And we lap it up like kittens drinking creme. Who cares who it hurts. Who cares what is true or not true. Who cares if careers are ruined and reputations destroyed.
Tiger Woods had some issues a few years ago. And it hit the front page with frenzy. He was condemned for many reasons. After all, he was a role model to many and "let people down." Question ... did his personal, private stuff make his golfing talent any less outstanding? He didn't ask to be a role model. The public and the press made him one. He just wanted to play golf -- something he does pretty damn well. At no time did he assert his perfection. He just played golf. But sponsors dropped him and the public condemned him. It has taken a few years to shake that off.
CIA Director David Patreaus resigned after his "indiscretion" hit the news. Patreaus began his career with incredible and noteworthy success. He not only graduated from West Point but completed Ranger School in a grueling nine weeks, winning top honors. He studied at Fort Leavenworth, winning honors there as well as at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs where he earned a master's degree and then a doctorate degree in international relations. He left academia to return to the military, handpicked by George W. Bush to lead the American Military surge into Iraq. A noteworthy career that included extensive academic honors and numerous military achievements was ripped to shreds when it was discovered he had an affair.
But ... the public needs to know. What happens in the bedroom or the closet or out of the spotlight influences ability to do a job well.
It does??? Huh. Well then, can ya tell me how the New Deal made it thru if FDR's personal stuff kept him from doing his job? Can you truly say to me that the Peace Corps and the way Kennedy inspired our country was a fluke .... that his "rapport" with a Hollywood Starlett impaired his ability to do the job to which he was elected.
Um. I think not.
There is a very old saying ... so old, it can be found in Chapter 7 of the book of Matthew in the Bible. It begins with Verse 1: "Judge not, that you not be judged." And it continues on with a question -- a very simple question: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?"
The public has become obsessed with digging into and judging the laundry of others. The "speck of sawdust" in their brothers' -- and sisters' -- eye. The dramatic increase in judgement and intolerance ... in getting the dirt on everyone and everything ... has commandeered the airwaves and the social media sites, overshadowing the idea of "live and let live." Do you recognize a morbid sense of curiosity in our society? Of the need to know?
Please tell me why it is necessary to describe every risque action Miley Cyrus chooses to take in excessive detail? What is the big deal? She's a musician ... If you like her tunes, just enjoy her music and let her make her own choices on living her life.
Please inform me why I need to hear about Justin Bieber's arrest when he egged his neighbor's house? I don't care ... do you? Really???
Jennifer Lawrence struggled with stress as a result of a bit of over-commitment. She fell climbing the stairs to accept her Oscar. Does that make Hunger Games or Silver Linings Playbook or any of her other films less amazing?
Please help me to understand why as a society we are so intensely driven to uncover and shine a blaring spotlight on the sins and mistakes of others. Why do we decide to discredit them for their uniqueness, their choices and their imperfections? Who are we to set rules for others and to brazenly abuse them for being "human?"
Forgive me, but I don't care who Kennedy or FDR slept with. They were brilliant leaders, each in his own right. I didn't care what crazy outfit Madonna wore when I was growing up. I don't care what Miley Cyrus "tweets." And I certainly don't need to know about the latest teen idol's fall from grace. I don't concern myself with Brad-jolina's numerous pre-marital adoptions or how it affected poor (really?) Jennifer Anistan. I don't care about any of the Kardashians. And I find myself ashamed that my country's citizens can so easily condemn and fling brutal, inflammatory remarks at our leaders -- and any "friend" who might have a differing view.
We sit in judgment ... we discredit. We are intolerant of differences or anything that challenges the fabric of our limited viewpoint.
But that's just it .... our viewpoint is limited. Few of us live in a Glass House -- I know I don't and I have yet to meet anyone out there without some dust or a skeleton in their closet. We are far from perfect. Each of us carries a plank in our own eye. But our obsession with pointing fingers at the "speck of sawdust" in someone else's eye truly horrifies me.
This trend as Americans .... as human beings ... and the rampant expansion in our judgmental attitudes and intolerance seems to be yeast in one seriously huge rising loaf of bread.
There's another verse in the Bible. It's in John 8, verse 7 ... "Let ye without sin cast the first stone."
Put down the stone, leave the laundry in the hamper, and perhaps spend a bit of time nurturing a key principle on which our country was founded: Tolerance.