Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Foley's Folly

It is easy to revile Mark Foley as a monster. He took advantage of his power to abuse teens who were under his watch. He clearly knew what he was doing was wrong. His contribution to legislation to protect children is a sad irony. How, I have to ask, could he fall into such a moral abyss?

Daily, I work with teenagers the same ages as these pages. They are in my trust as a teacher. Some know I'm gay; some don't. Ultimately, I think it better that they do know, though that may cause odd questions and expectations. Gay students have confided in me their own private gayness on occasion. I never forget my responsibility or my place with them. These students need to learn about trust and honor. Even friendship is not an option as long as they attend my school or are under 18. Ultimately, being gay has nothing to do with it-- it is the same for the straight teachers and students of the opposite sex.

If Foley were to befriend a page and have a relationship when the page left Congress and was over 18, we would have no grounds for criticism, however much we might not like such a tie between people of different ages. What is horrible about Foley's actions is NOT that he is in his 50s. It is that he betrayed the trust of those who served him, and who needed to learn about honest government.

Foley may well go to prison, whether he actually had sex with a minor or not. Internet soliciting for sex would be a crime. Yet, it seems clear to me that if he didn't actually have sex with a page, that what he ought to have is psychiatric care. He needs to learn how to love. No doubt the pages he wrote were old enough and educated enough to see Foley as a lonely, desperate man. I doubt they were damaged, other than to be more cynical and cautious in their dealings with those in power. Face it, 16-year-old pages can be clever and calculating themselves, as the email responses also reveal. It is sad that they were not given wiser and better role models. But they are not helpless children.

The cover-up of the Foley emails is in many ways as bad as the emails. They show Republican leaders afraid of the consequences of revealing the truth. Foley needed help, not a cover up. The House leaders show less regard for the pages than Foley had. All they wanted was the preservation of their power.

Is it possible to have leaders who put honor and integrity above greed and the lust for power-- or just plain lust? Jimmy Carter may have been our last honestly altruistic, benevolent leader; though perhaps local Congressman John Lewis still is. What must we do to have more citizens like them running the nation?


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