6.09.2011

An Open Letter to Congress' Men


I'm due for my semi-annual letter to Congress, and haven't yet found any oomph behind any topics to write about. So I'm doing something a little different this time. Instead of engaging my elected officials on things they are involved in, like deficit reduction or health care or poverty, I write in open letter format to encourage the men among Congress to commit to a higher level of decency when it comes to their views of and actions towards members of the opposite sex.

I speak not from a position of superiority. Earlier this year, I was humbled to be scolded about a conversation I had heartily participated in, in mixed company, that left the sole woman participating in the conversation feeling uncomfortable and humiliated. I am reminded, by these incidents, that I too am guilty of poor attitudes when it comes to women, which are bad for my soul, bring dishonor to women, and contribute to a sexist and demeaning society.

Because of their power, our nationally elected officials may be uniquely tempted in this area. And yet they must commit to being above reproach all the more. For, whether or not they have chosen to be a role model in this particular area, they ought to act like one. And so I say to all of our male Congressional representatives:

A lot has been made lately of "politicians behaving badly." From Ahnold to DSK to Mark Sanford's "hiking the Appalachian Trail" to Anthony Weiner's use of Twitter to flirt with younger women, we have plenty of examples of male politicians acting decidedly unprofessional, and plenty more verbiage from the mainstream and derivative press about why this happens so often.

I don't care to rehash the stories, the explanations, or the yuk-yuks. I simply write to ask that you consider taking extra precaution, and doing some extra soul-searching, to make sure that you don't think or act in an unbecoming way. Whether you are asking for it or not, you are someone with influence, someone people look up to, someone people are carefully watching.

Being good at national policy and having the intestinal fortitude to be able to win an election does not necessarily correlate with being a saint. So you might think my request unfair, that you hold yourself to a high standard. But I remind you that with every misstep, not only do we citizens, of all ages, and particularly the youngest among us, lose faith in our politicians, but we also become more cynical about male-female relationships.

Whatever is left of the decency of treating men and women as equals, of purity in relationships, of beauty that runs deeper than temporary outward appearance, that all dies a little whenever we hear of yet another male politician behaving badly. Conversely, however unsexy and inconsequential it may seem to live a decent, upright life, it does in fact matter. It matters for you and for your ability to lead. And it matters to us who watch you.


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