Eliot Spitzer - the former governor of New York - is now famously known as 'Number Nine,' a client on the list of a high-end prostitution ring. (Let me pause as I refrain from the string of puns itching to display themselves in this column.)
Standing motionless behind him as he resigned the governorship, his wife's bloated face bled grief and shock - leading me to believe that this scandalous report was also news to her. Was keeping his extramarital activities from his wife a deceit, or an honorable way to protect her feelings?
That is on a long list of questions in countless dialogues this incident has spurred around the country. While many people feel betrayed by Mr. Nine's alleged behavior and subsequent exposure, the good news is that we, as bystanders, have an opportunity to flounder around in the murky pool of lies, deceit and truth.
If the secret of Spitzer's actions didn't hurt anyone and as long as his lying was kept under high thread-count sheets, what is the harm? After all, he isn't the only John out there keeping the hooker business alive.
When I ask people the meaning of integrity, I am usually met with a blank stare as they usually respond: 'What do you mean by integrity?' flipping the question back to me. Integrity is spawned from family morals, community expectations and the laws we pass to reflect them. For us mortals, truth telling is a weak cog on the wheel of integrity. Truth is - we all lie.
When a wife asks, 'Do these pants make me look fat?' her husband activates a sophisticated sorting system that usually weighs heavily on the consequences of the answer rather than the answer itself - or simply put, he asks himself, 'How much trouble will I get in if I tell the truth?'
Truth telling takes two to tango. But assessing the size of your wife's derriere or making repeat visits to prostitutes are two ends of a long measuring stick of morality. My mother once told me, 'Don't do something behind closed doors that you wouldn't do in public.' I think, upon reflection, she was probably referring to sex, as this statement came on the cusp of my arrival into puberty. This wise piece of advice brings me back to Client Number Nine.
Last November, the toughest anti-prostitution statute in the United States was passed in the state of New York - championed by Eliot Spitzer himself. On one hand the governor wielded heavy judgments upon the prostitution industry. On the other hand he was dipping liberally into the fruits of its labor force. Living a lie or telling the truth depends on whether or not we behave in a way that aligns with and is congruent with our values - and in the case of politicians: their policies.