A Red-Letter Year

The 1987-88 pop culture season was definitely a red-letter year. And the letter was Hawthorne's scarlet "A." That's for adultery, in case your high school lit is rusty.

A season that began with continued reverberations from the PTL scandal burst wide open with Gary Hart's flagrant philanderings and Jimmy Swaggart's pathetic procurings. As this is written, the election marathon is rumbling to an end amid hushed and ungentlemanly rumors about George Bush's alleged mistress.

I must confess that I've been among that vast cross-section of the American public that has viewed this parade of dirty laundry with more bemusement than outrage. That Gary Hart took his sexual ethic from John F. Kennedy along with his hairstyle was no great surprise. And wasn't it inevitable that some of our TV preachers would turn out to be electronic Elmer Gantrys?

Adultery has always been especially widespread among men in positions of power. It seems to be one of the things they do just to prove that they can. Adultery is located in a continuum of male leader power trips that runs from keeping people waiting at meetings at one end to invading small countries on the other.

Of course, such sexual misbehavior is wrong by any worthwhile moral standard. And you have to feel woefully sorry for the publicly betrayed and powerless wives. But, all that said, it's still hard to act shocked.

But then Bruce Springsteen left his wife. Now that I take personally. And here's why.

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