Tuesday, October 03, 2006


The hue and cry that has developed in the wake of the revelation of ex-Rep. Mark Foley's suggestive e-mails and IMs is extraordinary. This story even edged out Woodward's very serious allegations regarding the duplicity of the Bush administration vis-a-vis Iraq. We hear that the Foley matter is "easier to understand" than the Abramoff bribes and the Iraq War. What is hard to understand about those transgressions?

In fact a major shift in climate seems to have set in since the last congressional page scandal 23 years ago. At that time a Democratic congressman was found to have had sex with a male page, while a Republican performed similarly with a female page. The Democrat, Rep. Studds, went on to be elected for several more terms by his Massachusetts constituents.

One thing that has changed is a growing sensitivity to sexual harassment. But did Foley even engage in that? To judge from the examples we have seen, his messages were suggestive rather than "lewd" or "salacious" as has been claimed. There were no description of sexual acts or pictures of his penis. Moreover, the pages did not work directly for Rep. Foley, but for Congress as a whole. As far as I know, he did not threaten his correspondents with any penalty if they snubbed him.

Our society must be the first one in human history that continues to regard young people of 16 or 17 as children. If these young people had been raised in such an atmosphere of seclusion that they did not realize that one should be cautious about offers from older men, maybe they should not be in Washington. Yet, as far as we know, they all were cautious. No instance of actual sexual relations has been reported.

There is the matter of hypocrisy, as Foley had threatened that those guilty of such "sickness" would find the punishment that is meet. I think that this should be called the Rush Limbaugh Factor. A few years back, it should be recalled, Limbaugh had been found to be consuming huge quantities of the drug OxyContin, which he had mixed in a way not intended in order to obtain a high. He had previously opined that white men should be given especially high penalties for drug offenses.

It seems that we are living in an age of near-hysteria with regard to even a hint of intergenerational sex. Parents are horrified by even the thought of it, which I think is the real reason why there is so much noise about this case. In the minds of some, I suspect, there lingers that old idea that if "my child" were to be exposed to any hint of homosexuality, the effect would be so powerful that he--it is usually a he, for lesbianism does not evoke the same fears--will be ruined for life.

I do not know whether this hypothesis is correct. What does seem to be so is the perennial rule that one can do certain things--if one doesn't get caught. It is only the list of items that changes. A second point is that all electronic communications are vulnerable. Do not write anything if you do not want it to be generally circulated at some point.

Sometimes I feel that I have the opposite problem. N o b o d y is circulating my postings. But I should count my blessings.


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