Friday, June 26, 2009

Healthy and Unhealth Obsessions

This is your brain on mid-life crisis says Tom Smith,about Gov. Mark Sanford, it is a sharp criticism:
Once more the human animal baffles me. Gov. Sanford, who I thought was pretty cool for trying to refuse to take stimulus money, turns out to be a love-crazed loon. I have long accepted that women are mysterious, but increasingly I fear I do not understand men either. What is it with these middle aged guys who ruin themselves, not to mention their families, by chasing after ridiculous objects of affection or even obsession? The length of the flight alone would keep me from flying to Argentina to have sex, not to mention prior engagements. Do I just not get it? Do I not know what love is? Hasn't this guy ever heard of cold showers or push ups?

I think in a deeper sense this is all the fault of liberals. Nobody used to think that just because you were 49 and the mother of your children no longer enthralled you as she once did that you were somehow entitled to fly across the hemisphere to satisfy your man lust. Real men sucked down a couple of stiff drinks, played a round of golf, fired up a good cigar and accepted the responsibilities of running the free world. But no more apparently. Now it's, oh my feelings, and I don't know who I am anymore, and nine other kinds of [b.s.]. It makes me embarassed for my sex. But, this is all the fault of the sexual revolution, and the associated rise of the therapeutic culture, which you may recall were not Republican ideas.
Despite the rhetoric about the fault of liberals, I don't think Smith is that far off the mark as a general point. Men used to be obsessed about inanimate things (cars or motorcycles), esoteric things (coins or stamps) or, heaven forbid, sports. Now they have become obsessed with feelings and validation and it seems stupid.

I came to an epiphany about this last night. Last night my wife noted to me that I seem obsessed with soccer. I don't know if "obsessed" is the right word (I am far more enamoured with the term "passionate," but that is semantics). I admit, I get excited about a good soccer game, I enjoy the game and I love to talk about it. I have been excited about all the soccer this summer as can be seen on this blog. So I suppose, for the sake of argument, my passion could be interpreted as an "obsession" by those close to me and it is helpful for this argument.

But here is the thing, my "obsession" with soccer keeps me and my mind focused on something, well if not constructive, at least not destructive like having an affair with a woman thousands of miles away. If Mark Sanford had been obsessed with soccer, American football, baseball, basketball, golf, boating, actual hiking, stamp collecting, ancient coins, Guitar Hero, Wii bowling or some other hobby, it probably would have meant that at least he wasn't jetting off to Argentina for some illicit snuggle time with a woman not his wife. If Mark Sanford had an obsessive hobby or extreme passion for sports, what used to be a thought of as a manly sort of thing, he would not have destroyed an otherwise stellar political career and more importantly would not have destroyed a family that he and his wife had worked hard to build.

Should Sanford have had a few stiff drinks, a cigar and a round of golf, or certainly a cold shower? I don't know, probably and 30 years ago he might have. But our society has become very adept at putting the self-desire before the self-duty. What Gov. Sanford lost sight of was that in fulfilling his selfish, personal desires, he abdicated his duties to his wife, his family, his friends and his constitutents. He is a symbol of a culture that has put so much emphasis on feelings, on therapy, on self-validation, and self-fulfillment, the concept of a manly sacrifice for the benefit of others has become lost along the way. Sanford's affair is indicative of the culture exalts one's own personal, physical desires first and men have lost the wherewithal to think clearly or to sacrifice an immediate physical want (sex) upon the alter of what is considered proper or dare I say moral? The societal impetus and the metrosexual male need to validate and fulfill our feelings become so important that some men are willing to toss aside decades of marriage, family and career for some woman who is thousands of miles away? If we are to learn a lesson in strength, fortitude and masculinity, or more accurately the lack thereof, I think we have seen that through Mark Sanford.

Gov. Sanford will live with his choices and the consequences thereof. As for me, I certainly don't think my passion for soccer has in any way dimished my passion for my wife and my love for my family. I try to keep my eyes on what is important. Yes, soccer clouds my field of vision from time to time. But, I don't think it leads me to bad choices. It is not as if I spent thousands of dollars of family funds jetting off to South Africa to watch the U.S. play in the Confederations Cup. Even if Sanford's hypothetical coin collecting hobby were expensive, I think Sanford's wife could handle that kind of unhealthy obsession, she would be far more forgiving than she is now, and at worse Mark Sanford would have to explain why he has a Fathead of a Buffalo Nickel on his garage wall. Such an explanation, while perhaps awkward, would be more manly, masculine and certainly more acceptable than the debacle he and his family is living now.

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