LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - Mania for scrutinizing private lives takes toll


The mania for scrutinizing the private lives of politicians has increased dramatically as has the technology for doing so. Politicians and other community leaders now live under a microscope easily wielded by political opponents and an oppressively self-righteous press corps.

The U-B editors had it right when discussing the Larry Craig incident four years ago: "Frankly, it isn't any of the government's business what people -- even senators -- do in private" (Sept. 20, 2007).

Both political parties must come together to end the reign of the media which have played a key role in summarily forcing public officials out of office without due process when they are deemed guilty of embarrassing but not illegal conduct.

I am grateful that this was not the case during the 1960s, when John Kennedy was mobilizing America's youth into international service through the Peace Corps and Martin Luther King Jr. was courageously leading the civil rights movement.

What would have happened if their continuous marital infidelities had been common knowledge exploited by the media? Would those who opposed their history-making innovations have been able to discredit them and prevent them from changing the moral fabric of our country?

Were we more accepting of human failings then? More prone to offer a second chance?

In any event, I'm happy that the Trappist monks in Kentucky, during those same 1960s, didn't kick Thomas Merton out of the monastery for the prolonged affair he had with a nurse in Louisville.

Merton, who was orphaned at the age of 15, composed some of his best writings on contemplation and the spiritual life after the affair was over. He had discovered that he was capable of intimately loving another human being and that he himself was a person worthy of being loved.

Those monks know a thing or two. After chapel, on the last night I spent there in September 2009, I climbed the hill that overlooks the valley. The sun was setting. Deer had moved in from the forest and were feeding in the fields below. Geese were flying noisily toward the dying light.

The peace of the night was only enhanced when the bells began to ring. You could hear them chiming these lines from Leonard Cohen: "Ring the bells that still can ring. / Forget your perfect offering. / There's a crack in everything./ That's how the light gets in."

Patrick Henry
Walla Walla


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