Saturday, February 3, 2007

Even in San Francisco...

Even in San Francisco, an old-fashioned, heterosexual love affair of brief duration can cause a stink. What is the world coming to?

The local press, like their national counterparts, seem to be fascinated (titillated?) by affairs by Democratic politicians. The bare bones outline of this one is that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's campaign manager for his re-election resigned because his wife told him she had had a brief affair with the mayor. She was going through an substance-abuse-detox program and telling her husband this was part of her "putting things right" work. At least in the San Francisco Chronicle, this is an occasion for considerable hand-wringing. Or, as Bob Somerby might put it, thigh-rubbing.

Chronicle cartoonist Tom Meyer dramatized the irony of it in
this cartoon on 02/02/07:

The Chronicle is speculating about whether Newsom has damaged his political career by this incident. This would be the same Newsom who allowed the famous gay marriages three years ago this month. San Francisco can be a strange place - at times in unexpected ways.

I hope a fit of discretion suddenly takes hold of all parties involved. I suppose the Board of Supervisors could invite Ken Starr to come in and write a report to detail exactly which parts of whose bodies got touched and so forth.

I'm not linking to any of the stories directly on the little scandal in this post, because this kind of story is dumb. In this case, it is a good little piece of California weirdness that Newsom was celebrated in San Francisco for the gay marriages. But he gets a scarlet "A" hanged around his neck for an old-fashioned heterosexual affair. Go figure. Which is the point of Meyers' cartoon.

One related article is useful for something other than thigh-rubbing voyeurism, though:
Righting wrongs is a typical rehab step by Justin Berton San Francisco Chronicle 02/02/07. Berton writes about the fact that, on the one hand, learning to be honest with oneself and other people and trying to correct harm done by previous conduct are important parts of recovery for addicts. On the other hand, confession can sometimes cause more pain and trouble that may not benefit the person recovering or anyone else. Berton writes:

Confessing hurtful behavior from the past is a typical step in the recovery process, counselors and therapists say, yet disclosures often can have unforeseen effects. In some cases, the consequences of making amends outweigh the need for admission, and patients are advised to keep mum.

"Making amends can be a very charged area," said Keith Schroeder, a certified alcohol and drug counselor in San Francisco. "This is a good example where making amends has consequences for others.
It does seem to me that for most people, setting off a public scandal like this may not be entirely conducive to healing the substance-abuse problem. And if keeping her marriage together is part of her goal, this may not have been the optimal approach. Berton also reports:

John DeDomenico, a counselor at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic for the past 20 years, said the decision to reveal dark secrets about acts committed while using drugs or alcohol is up to the client and counselor.

"It's not a mandatory step to recovery for everyone," DeDomenico said. "It can be crucial for some and not for others. It's for the individual to decide how they feel about it."

In this instance, Schroeder said he hoped Rippey-Tourk had consulted her counselor about whether coming clean was a necessary step. "Everyone is affected," he said. "The husband lost his job; he quit. Gavin will suffer damage, too. You have to ask: Is that fair to everyone?"
Good question.

The "sophisticated" thing to say in America this day about such an affair is, "It doesn't bother me that [he/she/they] had an affair. What bothers me is the bad judgment it shows." In other words, it doesn't bother me but it does bother me. It doesn't really make any sense to say that.

Columnist C.W. Nevius offered a distinctly idiotic version of this on page 1 of Saturday's Chronicle:
Unforgivable breach of Man Code 02/03/07. There's a "man code"? Dang, I wish I had heard about this before. I'd better Google that one today!

But here's Nevius' commentary on Newsom and the Man Code:

But a funny thing happened after the headlines hit and the buzz began: Many women said they were ready to forgive and forget.

Not men, though. No way. Many said they would never trust Newsom again as long as they lived. Some were livid; many were incredulous.

The difference? Apparently it is the Man Code, a set of rigid but unwritten boundaries over which no man may step. Break the Man Code, and you're toast. ...

C'mon, you say, what is this, a TV beer commercial? Evidently not. These guys were dead serious. Make no mistake - having an affair with the wife of a trusted male colleague is an irrevocable Man Code violation.
I'd really better find a copy of this Man Code thing. Nevius says it's "unwritten" but surely someone must have made notes about it somewhere. For instance, if you have a colleague you don't trust, does the Man Code allows you to do the Wild Thing with his wife and it's okay? Does that mean the mistrusted male colleague has no right to get upset about it? Inquiring minds want to know.

But the column is a glimpse of what Page One journalism in today's Establishment press looks like. Nevius' cheerful generalizations about the male reaction to Newsom's short affair are apparently based on phone calls and letters the paper got and maybe a couple of guys he talked to himself, man-on-the-street fashion.

And from that he comes to the rather remarkable conclusion that men are more upset this incident that women are.

Did it occur to him that the guys calling in to complain might be mostly Republicans? Or Christian dominionist types who hate Newsom's guts because of the gay marriage thing?
I suppose those are inappropriate questions for Page One journalism among our "press corps".

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