Monogamy and Integrity

A Soldier And His MistressRecent events in national news have me reflecting on a point I make, that in America the ideal marriage form is monogamy not polygamy. Along with this, the American ideal is that these marital partners are not only monogamous in form but are faithful to each other during the entirety of the marriage. Throughout human history soldiers have been separated from their loved ones for extended periods of time and, with all the conquering going on, it was generally assumed that warriors would be sexually active wherever they roamed. However much Americans may be aware of this, we nonetheless embrace the ideal that our warriors, who are married, would remain faithful to their spouses back home even when separated for years and by many miles. For most nations, throughout most of human history, knowledge of what went on away from home pretty well shaped the expectations and acceptance of the people back home. That tends not to be true for most Americans. We hold our military accountable to a higher ethic.

It is by now not an unusual story, the derailing of a notable career in politics, sports, business, government and military due to marital infidelity. It is also a typical part of biographies of past notable figures in these fields having had extramarital relations for a long time without these misbehaviors hurting their career, since the media gave little or no attention to these goings on. In our media saturated world, there is very little privacy left to successfully hide sexual misbehavior for long, especially for those people fortunate/unfortunate enough to demand a media following. The price of fame is unrelenting scrutiny and, largely, the loss of privacy.

A typical phrase heard during times of political campaigns is that, “All politics are local.” This seems to apply also to the undoing of these well-known figures. By that I mean, these people are not brought down by the big issues in the world where they operate or by the enemies, at their level, that they have generated. Instead they are brought down by person-to-person jealousies, rivalries and bragging that thrust the misbehaviors out into the national spotlight. It has long been recommended, somewhat cynically, that whatever you do, don’t write anything down. Had you in times past written things down there was little likelihood, if you were careful, that you were in much danger of discovery. I frankly shake my head in amazement that perfectly bright, technically alert people not only write things down but write them in e-mails which seemingly go everywhere, to everyone, forever.

During my years at Florida State a new constitution was created which used the concept of, “Government in the sunshine,” requiring governmental boards to do their business in the open for all to see and hear, rather than the long-standing tradition of secretive meetings being held to keep the public from being aware of who was doing what. I am once again reminded of the working definition of integrity as behaving as you would behave if everyone was watching you. Doing so would save individuals a lot of personal pain and society at large a lot of turmoil and disruption.