Should Herman Cain’s alleged affair matter?

I was scanning Nutshell Mail, an aggregator of various social media engines, and came across Yahoo Shine’s Question of the Day:

Herman Cain’s alleged 13-year-long affair: Should it matter?

I thought about posting a comment, but decided to write about it here instead. I haven’t posted a blog in a while, and my answer to the question has a lot to do with why.

Perhaps it is just a sign of the continued naivete of an adolescent idealist of the 60’s and 70’s, but on the surface, my answer is “No, it shouldn’t matter.” In a world of emotionally mature individuals, agreement or disagreement with the sexual practices of consenting adults should have no impact on our judgment of whether or not a person is capable of addressing a country’s economic and social problems and leading his or her constituents to a new tier.

But that’s where the naivete part comes in. To answer in that way, I have to start with the assumption that this is, indeed, a world of emotionally mature individuals, an assumption that has in recent years, and in recent weeks, taken a beating, and the idealistic 12-year-old in me has finally given up on that delusion. What I see in place of a world of emotionally mature adults is instead a fractured group of little kids, myself included.

The potential for individual growth and the success of relationships depend on there being a level of maturity in understanding and practicing the art of boundaries. It doesn’t matter if we’re husband and wife, parent and child, manager and employee, President and constituent, friend and friend, it’s all about boundaries. We act as if we’re shocked when the atrocities of Penn State and Syracuse are brought to light, yet don’t think for even a minute about humiliating a friend or co-worker in front of others, we don’t think for a minute about touching the belly of a pregnant woman, we don’t think for a minute about whether our behavior intrudes on the boundary of another, or whether we use the position of power we hold in a relationship (which includes the power to abandon) to diminish another. We argue on the one hand that we have the right to bear arms but in the same breath claim the right to tell a woman what she can and can’t do with her body. Or conversely, we argue that a woman’s right to choose is a prerogative of the state, but yet seek to restrict another’s right to purchase and carry a gun during deer season. Unless it (whatever it is) affects MY rights, MY opinion, MY freedom to do whatever I want, I don’t give a rat’s ass. But I’ll come to blows over it, whether verbal or physical, if I perceive that it does, with no concern at all about whether, by my very words and actions, I have trounced on yours.

Sorry, guys, but emotional adulthood does its best, imperfectly, to walk the tightrope that maintains my boundaries AND yours at the same time. And that requires that we are, in fact, our brothers’ keepers, even when our brothers don’t know what’s best for them or where their boundaries are.

No, what in theory should matter about Herman Cain is whether or not he can explain how his plan to boost the economy and get people back to work will work, why it will work and where its weak spots are. But what does matter, and not just about Herman Cain, is whether there is anyone out there who has a clue to where the boundary of his power ends or the character to demonstrate self-restraint. The problem is that if you can’t be trusted not to “throw your weight around” in the workplace or at home, it’s hard to believe you can be trusted not to throw it around in Washington.


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