I’ve decided to take an interlude from final exam studying to deliver this important post that everyone needs to hear.
As the Petraeus Affair continues to deepen, with fears within the intelligence services of the United States that classified information may have leaked between him and biographer Paula Broadwell, General John Allen, commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, has also been drawn into the scandal and is being investigated for misconduct relating to emails sent to Jill Kelly, a volunteer at the US air base and a family friend of Petraeus and his wife. It was harassing emails from Broadwell to her that set off the exposure of the affair.
The bare facts are that this sad saga is a classic example of the deterioration of morality and ethical behaviour in our society. In October and November alone we have seen two heroes fall spectacularly from grace: One, a cyclist who beat cancer, captured seven Tour de France titles, started a charity to fund cancer research and became an inspiring icon to millions; the other, a four-star general with 37 years experience who was briefly head of the CIA and at one point looked a presidential candidate. The identities of these two men will remain preserved to make a point that a name can be acclaimed or ashamed by the lives of those behind it.
You might say, we’ve heard saucy stories involving famous figures like this before, why should we care?
The actions of the General has shown how the very ideas of morality and ethical behavior and what they both stand for have lost their potency and importance today. This scandal makes it obvious that these ideas have become fancy, watered-down words used to sound academic or even show-off and through the mass-market pursuits of free-will and aggressive individualism that have become part of our very lives, the belief that,‘‘I should accountable to myself,’’ has become like a motto. This dangerous saying has the ability to cloud any notion of right and wrong in our conscience in – dare I say it – ‘‘shades of grey.’’ The great Greek philosophers, Aristotle and Sophocles and moral theorist Kohlberg must be weeping in their graves.
Morality, ethics and accountability are especially relevant when it comes to leaders and those whom God has granted power. Leaders have a responsibility to set a standard when it comes to behavior and to answer to those they lead. If leadership becomes rotted then everything under it will deteriorate as well because in the end, leaders are the ones that set an example for others to fallow. If their example is poor, how do you think those that follow will respond?
In 19th century writer Kenelm Henry Digby’s magnum opus, The Broad-Stone of Honour, he defines chivalry, an ethical code used by knights in Medieval Europe, as, ‘‘a name for that general spirit or state of mind which disposes men to heroic actions, and keeps them conversant with all that is beautiful and sublime in the intellectual and moral world.’’ While this name may sound archaic in our modern age, it is still carries as much gravity as it did 800 years ago because it is as much about bravery, heroism and reputation as living by a positive code of honour and dignity.
Back to the affair itself, the issue of morality and ethics ties in very nicely, in my opinion, about why Petraeus fell. After so many years in the military he thought that the respect he earned from the army and the public was enough to get away with a little indiscretion without anyone finding out or believing it. His moral code and ethical judgement had been softened with age because in his mind, his merits meant they were useless in maintaining.
The affair, or ‘cheating’ as it’s euphemistically termed nowadays, has become less of a hated and revile term in the West then in the Islamic Middle East and much of Asia and Africa. It is a theme in many Hollywood films and as become accepted and even celebrated as an expression of sexual freedom. While it may no longer be a serious topic, its implication are for the couple and those involved: divorce, broken children and relationships, emotional damage, depression, anger etc.
This poem highlights the affair in light of the Scandal and how its sinful enjoyment is always brief.
And then He left.
Not in glory, not in shame
and not with regret of their salacious game.
‘‘I’ll see you tonight,’’ he hurriedly said,
fiddling with loose buttons. The front door
slammed, the house was silent, but its walls
were awake; they had eyes and could see
what had occurred that night so sensationally.
And then She rose.
Touching the cold floor she greeted the day,
slipping a gown over the heart she gave away.
She opened a window and watched in flustered
face the cars fly by, and felt cooled by the breeze
Casually, her mind turned back to Him.
She giggled with innocence; it was with
recklessness that they ‘played.’
But then there was guilt, accompanied by fear.
She saw herself a mistress, love only to be taken and, she
knew, with no assurance of return. And who else was a spectator
to this dirty game? His spouse might guess from rumours or
his children maybe knew,
Their father’s midnight rendezvous.
They say evil corrupts the spiritually weak;
that love of the flesh is what unguarded heart seek.
And what could be found on those scandalous sheets?
The defiled form of Eros? Tea-time tabloid feed?
We will find the remains of two hearts, stitched by the valves,
tied by the veins.
Together as one in pleasurable pain.