(Originally posted Sunday, November 23, 2008 ) Dear God,
I am writing to ask your forgiveness about something I am deeply ashamed about. I'm writing to you because last night rather than read a book, go to an art museum or see a film, I stayed home to watch the Diane Sawyer-Ashley Alexandra Dupre interview on ABC, and for this I beg your absolution and grace.
I beg it, oh Lord, because I was momentarily caught up in the tut-tutting housewife's prurient fascination with this horrible, stupid, smutty topic. The story of a small-time hooker who brought down the governor of New York. I usually stay away from bad TV, Lord. I don't like the faux reality concocted by television, and normally I am wise enough to stay away and understand it for the waste of time that it is. And yet there I was last night. I had to watch.
I'm sorry because I, like many Americans from all walks of life, no matter what our pedigree, level of academic achievement or phase of maturity, had become sucked into the drama that had engulfed the New York state executive branch this year-had watched as a smart, brash Democratic politician draped in piety and self-righteousness debased himself and degraded his office to spend a few hours with a large-breasted, provincial high school dropout from New Jersey, exit 98. A reform minded man of arrogance who saw himself as protector and destroyer, who wielded power with great fluence and total confidence, Eliot Spitzer entered the office of governor with a great wave of popular support and widespread gratitude for all his efforts to bring Wall Street corruption to heel. He took the office not only with a mandate but with the bearing of a king.
I beg your forgiveness, God, because for some reason, I again needed to hear the story about how this great man with so much potential for greatness fell from grace because of a simple tragic flaw, a fussy adolescent need for instant sexual gratification. I watched because the archetype of the great man brought down by his hubris is one of the most compelling in our collective unconscious, an atavistic thrill that has stirred mankind for thousands of years. It is the subject of both Greek drama and I'm sure an episode of Desperate Housewives, too.
I watched because I so needed to hear once again the not-illuminating story of how a cute bridge-and-tunnel girl with strict parents rebelled, took drugs and sought out easy money.
I'm sorry God because I knew she would cry, and I wanted to see it so I could feel that the chickens had come home to roost, that the moral circle would be squared and the karmic ship righted. I am sorry, God, because I secretly hoped that she would have a thick New Jersey accent-which would just make the whole thing more stupid, tragic and sexy.
I'm sorry because I was gratified to hear that she only took solace in the arms of men who showed a remarkable willingness to lie to her on a daily basis and shelter her from reality, and thus it sounded to me like she had always been happily complicit in her own exploitation and debasement (the tale of her one sexual assault notwithstanding, obviously).
I'm sorry, God, because I let Diane Sawyer narrate me into the most titillating aspects of Ashley's biography, from her first time with a john, to the regular rituals she performed before her assignations. (Ashley would hug her dog before going to work!) I'm sorry, because I played my stupid part in the gestalt, yelling at Ashley through the screen for her foolish choices, just as Diane Sawyer wanted me to do. I'm sorry that I let Diane Sawyer take a self-righteous tone on my behalf, which allowed her to hide her own complicity in the tawdriness of this tale by amplifying the awfulness of it all for an audience of peanut crunching, gum-smacking mouth-breathers - like me, dear God. Oh, I know. They are all just like me.
I'm sorry because I, like Ashley, sometimes feel a need to be special, too, and because of that, I also make bad choices. I am susceptible to flattery, sometimes, or I'm lazy and selfish. I, too, would every once in a while love to have members of the opposite sex lie to me so that I wouldn't have to deal with the pedestrian heaviness of real life and all its burdens. I turned to Ashley to forget, God, how flawed I am.
I have never gone to a prostitute and never committed a crime, God. No, I was just sitting there on my couch, watching her suffer so that I could feel better about myself. And so I am so horribly guilty.
Dear God, who I don't even believe in. Please forgive me in my horrible wretchedness for playing my part in this horrible affair. Please, please, please forgive me and have mercy on my TV-watching soul.