Thingish Things

The Human Condition

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Feb• 10•11

The congressman Chris Lee matter is depressingly human.  If you haven’t yet learned of it, it’s a sad tale: A promising New York congressman resigned yesterday after a shirt-less photo that he emailed to a young woman was passed onto bloggers, who promptly posted it on the Internet.  The congressman, 46, is married and a father.

After one gets all the recriminations out of the way — he’s married and a father — one has to wonder, sympathetically or not, what  drove Lee to do what he did.

Sex, of course. But it has to be more than that. Between-the-sheets encounters can be acquired in ways far likelier to remain confidential.  Lee was a sitting congressman, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, and he sent a stranger on the Internet a photo of his face – and half-naked body – using his real name.  He fibbed only about his marital status and job description. (He claimed to be a separated lobbyist.)

In this partisan and digital environment, Lee had to know that getting caught — and being publicly humiliated — was imminently feasible. How could he be so reckless? It was political and personal suicide.

The human condition is a mysterious animal, and in Lee we see another inexplicable example of it. Why would Lindsay Lohan, while on probation, rip off a very average necklace and risk career-ending jail time?  Why did Daryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden throw away Hall of Fame careers? Beloved American comedian John Candy ate himself to death. How do you explain Pete Rose’s gambling? Why do each of us, on a daily basis, do things, however small, against our own personal interests?

Each slice of human frailty is more bewildering than the last. Yet we are fascinated, titillated even, when sensational stories like Lee’s splash across our computer screens and televisions. We gawk – myself included – at what, in one form or another, could be any of us if we just ventured over that line.

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  1. Karin says:

    Bill, you’ve got the facts wrong. He didn’t post his half-naked picture on Craigslist. He e-mailed it to a woman who had posted an ad in the “women seeking men” section of Craigslist. They sent a few flirty e-mails back and forth, then she began to suspect he was lying about his age and job. She then verified who he was and contacted Gawker, sending that Web site the picture and copies of all the e-mails. He was dumb enough to use his real e-mail address in his correspondence to her, but not dumb enough to post a sexy picture of himself on a singles forum.

  2. You are very right. Thank you. I have edited the post to reflect that. I really appreciate it.

  3. Your Friend says:

    The most tragic thing about this is that the poor guy didn’t even get laid.

    But seriously, he had to resign over this? Why is that exactly? Frankly, I don’t think any politician should resign over a sex scandal, as long as it’s between consenting adults. Maybe he had to resign to save his marriage, which is sad in itself. If his wife can’t forgive him, it may not be a marriage worth saving. so you have it spot on — human frailty, how sad it is.

    – d

  4. […] panicking over the loss of NY-26 yesterday — the seat prematurely vacated by former congressman Chris Lee — need to emulate those Tar Heel soldiers now. They need to […]

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