Should we feel personally betrayed, hurt or disappointed by President Clinton’s recent faux pas? I do. I’ll tell you a little story of my very first visit to Washington, D.C. today, which drove home many a realization for me.
First, I’d like to mention, I’m not a Republican or a Democrat. I do feel very strongly about women’s rights; but do not believe in political parties, which, to me, cause nothing but arguments and divisiveness in our country. I suppose I’ve always felt kind of old-fashioned (the only thing even remotely traditional about me) about the office of the President, though… that is, until I experienced the surroundings of his office today, with my own eyes. I’d never before recognized the magnitude of it all!
I’d always felt a humble reverence for this, the highest office of our country. I remember, as a kid, the first time I became interested in what was happening in relation to this powerful office, when at 10, I sat and watched the Watergate hearings while babysitting. I’d heard Mom and Dad talk of Nixon and remembered the respect they’d had for him. Personally, I looked up to and admired our Presidents as Father Figures. Even after I grew up, I thought of them in this way.
Women have struggled long and hard and are finally coming into their own; yet most of us still have a soft spot in our hearts for Daddy. Even those daddies who went away or paid very little attention to us; or those who we lost through divorce or separation. Even those of us, who were raised in homes where our fathers beat our mothers, still kind of looked to our daddies for hope and strength – even after they’d disappointed us time and again. We came to realize as we grew older and more experienced that they were only men – not supermen, but human… and flawed, as we all are. We soon had the desire to know more and we found out details about their shortcomings, their sins and failings in life, which kind of brought them down a notch or two to our level. And then they were no longer towering, super heroes. Yet we wanted to believe that our daddies were great and strong.
As the years went by, we met the bitter women who vehemently snarled, “Men! They’re all jerks!” or “All men are liars!” and tried desperately not to become one of them, steadfastly re-avowing our faith in marriage and in men. And even when we were hurt by men, our faith may have been shaken momentarily, but we swore we’d keep trying, if, for no other reason, to prove that we were above all that.
When I saw President Clinton on television stating emphatically, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman…,” his charisma intact, lying to the camera, lying to us all and even believing his own lies – convincing to some, not fooled by others… his eyes and stern insistence seemed woefully familiar. I just knew he was lying. He could flash those baby blues till Christmas and yet I felt it in my gut… he was lying. He lied to me. He – a father, a husband, a friend – purposely set out to deceive me. The (current) Father, once again, got his priorities all mixed up and placed his own needs before the needs of his people.
During our trip to Washington, D.C., the first place we visited was the National Archives Building, which, of course, contains all the precious documents set forth by the Founding Fathers. As we strolled through the line, my husband said, “Remember that Goldie Hawn movie where she brought those foreigners in here to see the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights?” The oft-repeated phrase of that movie, Protocol, popped into my head: “We the People.”
Later, as we stood by the gates of the White House, surrounded by the scurrying white squirrels and wrought-iron benches, the fragrant flowers and foliage – all the splendor “We the People” provide for this man who holds a position so highly respected throughout the world – I started to feel resentment as though my own father had cheated me. Clinton’s flippant attitude and his apparent low regard for who and where he is and who put him there – how he’d taken all we’ve given him for granted – hurt. And the thought of what he’d done and the risks he’d taken suddenly seemed much more appalling to me.
My husband and I had traveled from New York to see the Van Gogh exhibit at the National Gallery of Art and were taken aback and quite disappointed, as we approached the gate, when the tour guide told us (at noon on Saturday!) “No more tours today.” We’d come so far and had walked for miles! I slumped down, defeated, on a bench and glanced past the rails, peering through dozens of gorgeous trees, breathing the sweet-scented, delicious air that made the President’s world seem like a paradise. Why can’t we tour the White House today? I suddenly felt so small and insignificant and my feet hurt. Does the President really feel my pain? I thought not. He’s way to ensconced in luxury, served fine, gourmet foods and experiencing the best of the best, to understand my pain. I grasped the cold iron gates, peeking through the abundant foliage, past the surveillance equipment, feeling very much left out in the cold.
So we continued walking and finally arrived at the Washington Monument only to reach a sign that read: “Closed for Renovations.” I snapped another in a series of photos for our documentary on the day – an album of disappointments. It had been bad enough that we’d traveled so far by train to see Van Gogh, only to be turned away. “You’ve got to get here very early to get a ticket. Most people come around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.,” they casually informed us. And then, we found out, they are forced to wait all night until around 11:00 a.m. just to get a ticket. “But the Web site1 said, ‘We the People’ own this exhibition and ‘Admission is Always Free!’” I replied to deaf ears. (The exhibition was so important that it had been featured on A&E’s Biography the week before.)
The reflecting pond, on up to the Lincoln Memorial, was refreshing – seemingly the only real, pure thing we experienced during our trip to the nation’s capitol; and it brought back memories of scenes from great films such as Forrest Gump and Nixon. And seeing Lincoln, perched up on his “throne,” I was in awe of a man who represents all that Clinton is not - a man whose actions told the story of his character. The statue was so much bigger than I’d imagined from seeing photos and film!
And so we walked on until we could walk no more and then grabbed a cab up to the Capitol Building where there stood a line of people waiting to take the tour. It was two blocks long! Some had waited for hours. An elderly woman told us she’d waited five hours for Van Gogh and three to tour the Capitol. Another girl said she’d come all the way from Pennsylvania, stood in line from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00, only to be turned away. A very respectable doctor/retired veteran, we met on the train going home, had been forced to buy a ticket for $100 from a scalper for this “free” exhibit, owned by “We the People.”
Clinton may not have anything (directly) to do with our series of disappointments; but his aura and essence was everywhere and I couldn’t help but think, “Where are the good people who could run for office? The ones who are courageous and brave… who we can trust and know by their actions?”
I remembered that recently I had the great honor and privilege of meeting a real super hero, literally a superman – Christopher Reeve. Most of us know of the tragic accident, which left this gifted actor paralyzed. I’d felt so inspired by his and his wife’s courage. When I finally got to say a few words to him, I presented him with a painting and expressed how I’d loved his films and I told him it was an honor to meet him; they snapped our photo together and it was over. Later, I felt such regret that I might not have said the right words. I felt undeserving in his presence, knowing of his tremendous courage and all he was doing to try to help others.
A man that cannot move, moves so much.
He can never again rise from his chair;
yet he continuously rises to the occasion.
I went home and began reading his biography, Still Me.2 I was sad for him that in his thoughtful and heartbreaking book (obviously printed prior to Clinton’s admissions of guilt) he’d spoken so highly of President Clinton. How thrilled he and his family were to receive a call from Clinton, even as Christopher was struggling for his life!3 He said he’d even had a “working relationship with President Clinton, having campaigned for him in 1992.”4 Clinton’s administration had tried to help with Christopher’s work; and the President’s comments were a great inspiration to Christopher, as they are to so many in the world today.
But are they just words? Clinton’s adamant denials, his insulting games of semantics and his refusal to accept responsibility for his own bad behavior haunt me. It reflects shades of Swaggart and Bakker and other tricky sinners… yet non-repentant, brusque and non-cooperative. And yet, what’s most amazing to me is that women continue to rally in support of the President, citing all his supposed accomplishments. It’s ironic that it’s always women whom he hurts the most; he’s made a fool of his own wife, humiliated her in public and degraded other women. How can a man claim to be supportive of women and fail so miserably in his own personal relationships with them?!
We women have been taught to accept full responsibility for our own actions, our own happiness, and so on… to be independent and strong. Yet the media and all its damage control airings are trying to convince us that:
a) A 23-year-old intern isn’t capable of knowing right from wrong or making informed decisions;
b) A wife, such as Hillary – smart and savvy though she is – who remains silent and feigns ignorance of the activities of someone to whom she’s been married for 23 years, is a hero and we should admire her “courage;”
c) Clinton’s personal activities and character are none of our business; and
d) The definition of ‘sex’ is debatable.
My intelligence is insulted by such soft-soap compromising of our basic principles. And it’s a sin that we’ve wasted so much time and energy on all of this silliness. Bob Greene of the Chicago Tribune expressed it so well in a recent television interview when he stressed how bad it is for the health of our country to allow the media’s focus to wallow constantly in wall-to-wall, cover-to-cover Clinton shenanigans rather than the reporting of stories that are so much more deserving. He cited an example of his recent work on the story of a brave little boy – a real hero – who left his home one cold night, barefoot, and walked several miles to the police station to report that his sister was being kept in a cage; and then he was even courageous enough to testify against his abusive parents in court.5
A parent should be a strength and guide to us, which is why I long for my father – A Father – a man, though flawed he may be, who can look me in the eye and say, “I am resigning from this great office because I reallydo feel your pain – all the pain I, myself, have caused you.” And let us get on with the business of the people instead of wasting more time on silly scandals and sinfully wasting our resources.
2. Reeve, Christopher. Still Me. Random House, New York, 1998.
3. Ibid, p. 39.
4. Ibid, p. 135.