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Elliot Spitzer and America's Ethical Perversity

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  The cross-the-political-spectrum attacks on Elliot Spitzer and the intensity of the demands that he resign his office show just how far the  Right-wing sexual moralizing has been able to trump any other kind of ethical reasoning in American society.
 
 Going to a prostitute is legal in some states and some countries around the world, and is often the very arrangement that saves families from splitting up whose sexual energies have diminished but whose love is intact. It's not uncommon for men (and now increasingly women as well) who have achieved great power in our society by adopting an outer show of ruthless pursuit of power and influence (even, as in Spitzer's case, if the power is aimed at pursuing laudable ends) to feel a deep  emptiness and loneliness that is not addressed by friends or spouse, and hence to seek some kind of outside connection no matter how superficial that is not bound by previous rules and roles. Nevertheless, I and many others in the religious and spiritual world oppose that practice when it involves adultery or prostitution, because it depends on the objectification of another human being, so that sex is disconnected in ways that it should not be from a significant encounter with the spirit of God in the other or a deep recognition that is the only real way to overcome existential or situational alienation.
 
 Moreover, the trade in women for sexual purposes has frequently led to rape and abuse and the kidnapping of young women who are sold into sexual slavery. All of these outrageous practices are abhorrent and should be challenged. The flaunting of sexuality in the media, and the implicit message that the only real satisfaction comes from having the most physically attractive people as sexual partners, not only generates huge dissatisfaction even as it allows corporate advertise to become predators manipulating our personal sense of inadequacy to sell their products, but also generates desires that feed the sexual trade in women. Given this larger social context, until sexual satisfaction is so broadly available in our society that no one has to pay for it and so deeply tied to love that no one is objectified in the process, this kind of exploitation of women and degradation of sex is likely to continue. All of these practices foster the sexual predators of the contemporary world.
 
 So Elliot Spitzer deserves to be critiqued and ought to be doing deep atonement for what he did.  His previous moral arrogance and willingness when he had power to do so to prosecute others for their participation in creating prostitution rings makes him an easy target. We, in turn, might practice the forgiveness that our religious and spiritual traditions preach, particularly those of us who have been willing to honeslty face how flawed we ourselves are, and how at times we ourselves fail to embody in our actual practice with others the values that we publicly espouse. Humility and compassion are also part of the path of a spiritual progressive.
 
 But the intensity of the critique of the N.Y. governor, tied with the demand that he resign, shows more about American society's ethical perversity than about Spitzer.
 
 The President of the U.S. and the Vice President, working in concert with several other high ranking officers of our government, lied and distorted to get us involved in a war that has led to the death of over a million Iraqis, the displacement of 3 million more, the death of 4,000 Americans and the wounding of tens of thousands more. After token opposition in Congress, our elected representatives have overwhelmingly passed budgets funding this war, rather than refuse to fund any military projects until the President stopped the war and withdrew the troops.
 
 Meanwhile, our government has overtly engaged in torture, wiretapping of our phones, and violation of our human rights and the rights of people around the world. Senator Diane Feinstein and Senator Charles Schumer votes to confirm as Attonrey General a right-wing judge who refused to repudiate these crimes.
 
 The U.S. government has rejected every attempt to implement the Kyoto environmental agreements or to work out new agreements sufficiently strong to reverse environmental destruction that is certain to lead to new levels of flooding particularly in several poor countries around the world. The consequence: tens of millions of deaths.
 
 The Clinton Administration pushed, along with corporate support, a set of trade agreements that have devastated the farmers of many developing countries, forcing many off their farms and into city slums where their daughters and sons are often sold into sexual slavery.  The global economic system we have fostered has led to increasing gaps between the rich and the poor, so that over one out of every three people on the planet lives on less than $2 a day, 1.5 billion live on less than one dollar a day, and over 15,000 children die every day from malnutrition-related diseases and inadequate availability of medicine that is hoarded by the rich countries who can afford the prices made to ensure huge profits to the pharmaceutical industry.
 
 Health insurance companies and private medical profiteers are doing all they can to ensure that there will be no health care for tens of millions of Americans, unless that is provided in ways that guarantee corporate super-profits and thereby guarantee that the cost of health care paid through taxes will be huge and create anger at all government social welfare and well-being programs, leading to their likely de-funding.
People in the US have faced severe economic crises on a regional and soon on a national level because corporations move their centers of production to countries in Asia where they can exploit workers with less government or union interference and where they can destroy the environment with less societal restraints. Wild to achieve greater profits, corporations and the rich have managed to support politicians who lower the taxes on the rich, in the process bankrupting the public sector or severely reducing its ability to provide enough funds for quality education, health care, libraries, public transportation, and social welfare.
 
 That there is no outcry for these government officials and corporate leaders to resign immediately or be impeached, that there is no moral outrage at the entire system that produces this impact, is America's ethical perversity. Instead, the only crime against humanity that the media takes seriously and the politicians fear is being exposed for personal sexual immorality. While everyone basks in their own self-righteous demands on Spitzer, we all allow media and elected officials to fundamentally distort our ethical vision and play out our morality on the smallest of possible stages while ignoring the global and personal consequences of our larger ethical failures.

 

tikkun.org

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun and national chair of the Tikkun Community/ Network of Spiritual Progressives. People are invited to subscribe to Tikkun magazine or join the interfaith organization the Network of Spiritual Progressives-- (more...)
 
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With the arrogance of a 'Christian Nation'... by Roger on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 9:12:01 AM
I am not much of a fan of Rabbie Lerner but here h... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 9:24:36 AM
Hello everybodyI am so grateful for this, Rabbi Le... by Kathryn Smith on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 9:32:17 AM
Although I agree with many of the rabbi's poin... by Sean Freeman on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 12:22:21 PM
I love the false dilemma we so often see on the in... by Steven Leser on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 12:45:30 PM
There are many people who disregard "bad laws... by Sean Freeman on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 4:40:30 PM
My comment was pointing out the fact that you offe... by Steven Leser on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 11:18:13 PM
I completely agree that unconstitutional laws can ... by Sean Freeman on Thursday, Mar 13, 2008 at 9:08:17 AM
Unjust laws should be disobeyed.  And that is... by rhalfhill on Thursday, Mar 13, 2008 at 1:59:05 AM
Unjust laws should be disobeyed.  And that is... by rhalfhill on Thursday, Mar 13, 2008 at 1:59:11 AM
Our ' corageous' MSM has its day in full s... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 1:11:05 PM
The cross-the-political-spectrum attacks on Ellio... by steve scheetz on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 1:33:29 PM
It is not OK to have sex with the prostitute no ma... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 1:42:52 PM
but I would like to add that Spitzer was doing a g... by Michael Shaw on Thursday, Mar 13, 2008 at 11:31:43 AM
     the intensity o... by mikel paul on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 1:58:30 PM
  After a career of busting organized crime w... by Michael Chavers on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 3:22:27 PM
How about is it OK to go kill 400 birds with your ... by steve scheetz on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 3:28:08 PM
No, I am not saying it is allright for Elliot Spit... by rhalfhill on Thursday, Mar 13, 2008 at 2:30:45 AM
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypoc... by Bob Gormley on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 4:27:59 PM
The premise that we ignore far worse evils than&nb... by Marta Steele on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 8:49:18 PM
In a nation where recent polls suggest 41% of the ... by Michael Shaw on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 10:10:41 PM
This comes from courtesy of Democracy Now: ht... by Michael Shaw on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 10:25:29 PM
When AG Spitzer was nailing those Wall Street... by L. RETZACK on Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 11:25:56 PM
Elliot Spitzer's demise had nothing to do with... by aberamsay on Thursday, Mar 13, 2008 at 7:32:22 AM
What about the loss of civil liberty, the killing ... by Michael Shaw on Thursday, Mar 13, 2008 at 11:24:26 AM
if you're in Nevada, or the Netherlands. And, ... by Douglas Smyth on Thursday, Mar 13, 2008 at 9:44:13 AM
it's like the drug wars. The system creates th... by Michael Shaw on Thursday, Mar 13, 2008 at 11:58:57 AM
What are "we" doing here? Besides "... by G Achin on Thursday, Mar 13, 2008 at 10:16:42 AM
Rabbi, your article was great!Stirling ... by Lord Stirling on Thursday, Mar 13, 2008 at 1:13:46 PM