Wednesday, January 28, 2009

An Affair to Forget

The good news is that, at least for the time being, Sam Adams will remain Portland’s mayor despite pressures from The Oregonian and Willamette Week, et al, to step down.

To his credit, The Oregonian columnist Steve Duin encouraged Sam to stay and duke it out, as did many of Sam’s more hardcore supporters. We've got more important things to do than worry about whether or not someone has a sex life and whether or not they lie about it (almost everyone does, if not to embellish an otherwise dreary sex life by admitting to affairs that never happened then to cover up affairs that did, or to maintain secrecy about kinky sexual proclivities deemed too embarrassing to talk about). The elephants in the room have been screwing the donkeys for years, but most people are disinclined to even raise an eyebrow—not to mention debate—over that.

What kind of people demand to know the lurid details of another person’s sex life? Nosey thrill-seekers desirous of satiating their prurient interests while paying homage to voyeuristic tendencies, to be sure, but also opportunists hoping to create a scandal for the purpose of taking down a rival, and those mentally challenged insecure souls who leap at every opportunity to vent their self-righteous moral indignation against people with whom they happen to disagree. But mostly it’s people who expect to be lied to—who enjoy being lied to—that delve into the private sex lives of public figures. Why else would you even ask the question when you know that it’s guaranteed—guaranteed—to precipitate a lie?

The whole sordid story of Sam’s brief affair with Beau Breedlove smacks of character assassination for political purposes, and it prompts me to ask these few questions:

Who leaked the story? How was the story leaked? Why was the story leaked? When was the story leaked? Who benefitted from the story being leaked? Was anyone other than consenting adults involved? Who are the aggrieved parties (other than the willing participants whose privacy was invaded)?

The answers to these questions can reasonably be expected to reveal the identities—and the motives—of those with axes to grind.

Does an expression of affection (such as a kiss) between a forty-something adult and a seventeen year-old minor constitute a sex crime? Before you answer, make sure you know the differences between forcible rape and statutory rape; the distinctions between them are huge. Oh, and if you’re a parent be careful how you answer, lest you inadvertently put yourself in the position of having to defend against the criminal charges of rape, pedophilia and incest at some point in the future merely because you desired to express love and affection for your child. You, too, can become a victim of someone’s malevolent intent.

Did Sam make errors of judgment in responding to the allegations? Of course he did. Rather than lie, he could have said, “I won’t dignify that question with an answer” or “My sex life is neither appropriate for nor open to public debate” or “I’ll tell you mine if you’ll tell me yours—you go first” or, to put it in terms that leave absolutely no room for ambiguity, “My sex life is none of your fuckin’ business.”

Despite what Sam’s detractors say, Sam hasn't broken the trust of the people. On the contrary, the people of Portland have broken Sam’s trust in them, and in the process made it extremely difficult for him to do his job, which is to conduct the people’s business.

How Sam conducts his personal affairs that are unrelated to the people's business is none of the people’s business.