Wednesday, July 08, 2009

True Love or not True Love

This started as a comment on World Class New Orleans, to Mr. Clio's excellent post A Toxic Culture for the Heart (what I had to go through to get Facebook out of those links is a'whole'nother post). Writing in reference to South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's infidelity scandal, one of his points is that we glorify "following our heart" and then punish those who do. I think often about the emotionally unhealthy nature of much of the music I listened to growing up, and its profound effects on me, especially in the context of the rest of popular and family cultures. Hours of "I'm Your Puppet" (just the best example, one of too many) over and over accompanied by melodramatic heart-bursting pining can't lead to anything good. It cost me a fortune, in more ways than one, to escape this way of being.

Perhaps I've over-corrected, driven by a love for my children that requires me to at least try to put them first as the best way of insuring my own happiness; and maybe I'm lying to myself by insisting that the notion of "true love" as a goal or priority is self-indulgent drivel, or more importantly, at least at my age, icky.

When I see someone like Sanford doing this kind of damage to those they claim to love and citing "falling in love" as an excuse, it's repulsive. They put their own grandiose gratification above the well-being of their families. Gross and immature, this seems worse to me than Bill Clinton or even Larry Craig just wanting to get a little on the side. I'm not advocating detached sexual dalliances, but somehow that seems more honest. There are lots of valid reasons to leave a marriage. Even the Catholic Church provides a way of escaping impossible union, and I think it's totally okay for someone who's fought the good fight, tried everything they could to make it work and come to the realization that it can't be done because no one can do it alone, to go and seek happiness with dignity; but, please, lose the drama.

Mr. Clio's description of cultural glorification of "searching for true love" as "bait-and-switch" is exactly right. What works in a novel or a movie becomes destructive in real life. We've been taught wrong. What we should be seeking is a quieter, more day to day, way of living love. It's just not as much fun to watch.

What I find most telling about the whole Sanford mess is that the people closest to him hung his ass out to dry. His family and staff just let him have it. His Lieutenant Governor called attention to his absence. His communications people had no safety net in place, no damage control deployed in his behalf. His wife, his former campaign manager, knew exactly what she was doing when she told the world she didn't have a clue where he'd gone. They must really hate this guy.

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