A little essay to try to counteract the hypocrisy afoot in the land¬†regarding The President’s Sin.

First appeared in The Judevine Mountain Emailite #5, January 18, 1999

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel THE SCARLET LETTER is everywhere these days. You remember the story. Hester Prynne bears a child fathered by someone other than her husband and, as condemnation for her sin, is forced to wear the red letter A as a symbol of her adultery and shame.

Now the Republicans in the House of Representatives have said The President has to wear the scarlet letter also, for he must be punished for his sin and for lying about his sin. They argue there cannot be a double standard for justice, one for the president, one for the rest of us.

There also cannot be a double standard for honesty. We cannot insist the President tell all while the rest of us cower, hoping–as Henry Hyde and Bob Livingston did–that our own adulteries will not be discovered. We have absolutely no legal or moral right to know what we know about the President’s private life, but since Ken Starr, Linda Tripp and the Morality Police have forced all this on us, the only way out of this devious, hypocritical mess is for all of us to come clean now.

So, if you have had sexual intercourse, the President’s definition, with someone other than your wife or husband while you were married, or if you have had sex by the definition Ken Starr prefers, whatever that is, or if you have committed what Jimmy Carter, and Jesus, called “adultery in your heart,” by lusting after someone other than your spouse, then you too must confess. For the sake of our country. In the name of honesty. It’s only fair.

Let me begin. I have been married for 32 years. I am guilty of adultery by at least one of these three definitions. Any more than that I won’t say. We do not need to go into the lurid details Ken Starr lusts after. We can be discrete about this, but, in the name of what is right and just, we MUST do this.

Therefore, with this confession I join the President and put on my scarlet letter. I cut mine out of cardboard, painted it red and duct taped a safety pin to the back. Make yours any way you want, but join me, please. For the sake of honesty and unity, all of us who are guilty must step forward. And I mean ALL of us. I assume Henry Hyde and Bob Livingston will put on their scarlet letters, and I hope those in the media will do so as well. Think how nice the scarlet letter will look on Sam Donaldson’s black camel hair coat as he stands out in front of the White House or on Cokie Roberts’ blouse pinned there just above her left breast. I mean, of course, if they are guilty.

So, please, put on your scarlet letter, let it say that you too are fed up with this divisive, sanctimonious, self-righteous finger pointing.

If the President has to wear his scarlet letter, then so must we. Put on your scarlet letter. Let’s see how many scarlet letters there will be.

© 1998, 1999, 2000, by David Budbill, all rights reserved,
permission to reprint must be gotten in writing from David Budbill: david@davidbudbill.com
or from the publication in which the essay first appeared.