The truth is, I’m really saddened by this. Saddened by another scandal. Saddened by another career ruined by hubris, ego and lust. Saddened by the public humiliation of another popular leader that believed himself invulnerable to the brokenness that all of us share.
I don’t know what was in Mark Foley’s heart. It clearly wasn’t good or upright or pure. Most of the time, I don’t even know what is in my own heart, black as it usually is.
“It’s more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction.” Mark Foley said that, when the news of Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern broke. And he was right. It was sad. And it’s just as sad when it turns out that Foley had his own sexual demons to wrestle.
That’s the way it is with human brokenness: it creates a culture of corruption that acts with impunity, seeking only its own interest, and consequences be damned. Foley is not a stand-in for a Republican party, smashed as it is on the shoals of the Bush presidency. Foley is a stand-in for all of us, Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, who confuse our own selfish desires with the greater good.
If House leaders, as it is being alleged, knew about Foley’s pedophilia and refused to do anything about it, they should justly suffer the people’s wrath and the law’s justice. But to assume that merely installing the opposition will create a utopia of goodness is to forget the sordid story that belongs to us all. The Democrats, returned to power, will do some good things. But they, too, will lose power eventually, when their own hubris drives them to acts of foolishness or worse. It’s why we have elections, regularly. It is our nation’s only tool to for a constant renewal of our common life together.
It’s why the American ideal is just that, an ideal—a goal, a hope, a prayer, desire to build a society with justice and liberty for all. We are not very good at it, and our present political realities reflect our failures with a starkness at once dizzying and crystalline. We are failing in war, as we failed in peace. But we get back up and try again to build the country that we only dream of.
Today, let’s remember that Mark Foley, driven as he was by the Legion that drove him to madness, did some good things. He is damned before us, a prisoner of a self-created hell that seperates him from God and us. Before we rise up to condemn, perhaps we should look deep into the darkness of our own hell, to see ourselves writhing in pain alongside him.