Anthony Weiner has been a great congressman to New York and beyond. He can stir a crowd. He is unpopular with the moderate Democrats. He is prophetic on the matter of immigration (as well a Queens congressman might be). If only his power and passion could have turned to prophecy, instead of pettiness, we could still have the leader we need. Because he twittered his power away, we might lose this good leader. Lying is not leadership, nor is personal hiding from your intimates an attractive trait in a congressperson.
So why did he do it? Permit me a few explanations, ranging from the most cynical to the most hopeful:
1) Perhaps he was tired of congress and wanted to land a high profile media job, like Eliot Spitzer. Apparently, the best way to move up in the world is to have a sexual something—I am personally thinking of having an affair. I think it might boost my ratings in the world of the spectacular. (I am already fairly popular in the world of the ordinary.)
But I so long for a megaphone, like Spitzer had last night, where he opened his show with a one sentence “confession,” saying “I’ve been there,” only to host three men to talk about Congressman Weiner’s Achilles penis. I couldn’t believe he couldn’t find a woman—but apparently only men know about sex. Plus CNN loves his ratings.
2) Maybe he wanted to bump Dominique Strauss Kahn off prime time. The Frenchman was due in court yesterday and his sexual offenses might have dominated the whole region, had it not been for the congressman. If only Sylvio Berlusconi had come to town, we could have had traffic jams cross-town as well.
3) A third possibility? He wanted to let us all know that he did not do anything “really” and that, like many boys, he wanted to alert the world of what he was doing, so he managed to get caught.
4) He wanted to elevate his wife, Huma Abedin, to the stature of Hillary Clinton. I know it sounds convoluted at first, but there is nothing like the dignity of being wronged. Huma Abedin is a serious politician herself—and might have needed a bump (no, people, not a “bulge”) in the polls. I am so glad she didn’t stand “by her man” (as did Mrs. Spitzer and Mrs. Strauss Kahn) when Weiner announced, tearily, his truth. At least “Mrs. Weiner” was a no show.
5) And then there is what Antonio Gramsci, the great Italian socialist, calls the “eroticization of everyday life.” Weiner is the kind of big man who is probably easily bored. He probably couldn’t stand another rubber chicken dinner so the tension of boredom led him to seemingly low cost forms of personal entertainment.
6) The stress and anxiety of public life finally got to him. He needed a release. He needed to be noticed as a body and not just a drone. He needed intimacy after all those crowds. So he bought it.
7) His religious upbringing failed him in coming to terms with how a boy becomes a man, how sex can be beautiful, how naughty can be nice, as long it is not truly naughty. I remember my son begging me to give him a quick “sex ed” course. I told him it had to be mutual, it had to be fun, and nobody gets hurt. He wrote the rules down on his wall in a thirteen year’s old handwriting. One, two, three.
Do any of these reasons make sense? No. Their sum doesn’t approach the whole of the parts. Until sexuality is reimagined, with religious organizations getting “over it,” we will continue to see one Achilles penis after another, probably online in covert caughtness. The women will still bear the letter “A” on their breasts, and the men will just bore us.
Imagine, instead, how wonderful it would be if we could all be queer, even the Weiners of the world. Queer? Isn’t that a bad word? Nope. It just means a way of transcending gender, loving sex, enjoying the erotic. Very few Sunday Schools are teaching it yet. Since the systems that teach us how to be girls and women, boys and men, are made by human beings, they can also be remade. Therein lies what little hope I can scrape out of this foolishness.