It turns out that former CIA director David Petraeus is just one of us — merely one of the estimated seven billion people in the world — like the rest of us a flawed, miniscule, basically irrelevant part of the four percent of the universe’s matter that we can see, touch and feel (that includes everything on Earth and all the planets, stars, asteroids and other visible matter in the universe). Irrelevant, that is, if you believe in nothing bigger than oneself.
The other 96 percent of the universe’s matter is that forming "dark" matter and energy. It is dark not because it is without light but because we don’t know what it is. We just know it exists and forms the majority, by far, of the universe’s total matter.
So Petraeus is not the unique, irreplaceable, savior some, possibly he himself, saw him as — particularly the media. The media saw him as one magazine cover proclaimed, a "Rock Star General." That is until he resigned as director of the Central Intelligence Agency for, among other possible misdeeds yet to be dug up in an investigation, engaging in an extramarital affair.
And that’s understandable if not acceptable. None of us is without flaw or misdeed — not that any misdeed really matters that much anyway if all you believe in is your place in the four percent of the visible matter premise. And if you believe in more, "Let the one without sin cast the first stone," as Jesus Christ is quoted as saying in the Bible.
But am I offering excuses for the misdeed, whatever it is? No. Some in the media have tried to offer reasons for Petraeus’ poor behavior. "He sacrificed himself for his country." "No wonder he strayed. He was deployed away from home a majority of the last decade." "It was Paula Broadwell’s (the other woman in the affair) fault — she seduced him."
Bull cocky. Petraeus has no excuse for his poor behavior, other than that he’s human and prone to error. How about this for an excuse: Petraeus was thinking with body parts other than his brain, a not uncommon frailty of mankind, regardless of who you are. The bottom line is he made a big mistake for which he’s responsible. Deployments or endless servitude or beautiful women are not excuses.
At least Petraeus understands this. He was quoted from a letter to a fellow general recently reported by ABC News and other media outlets that he had "screwed up royally." Saying one "screwed up royally" is a common refrain in the military when one admits one’s mistakes. You have to give him credit for admitting his "screw up," the first step in redemption.
Some in the media though, in addition to attempting (unlike Petraeus himself) to offer worthless excuses for his unseemly behavior have opined that we in America should adopt the "French" method of dealing with extra-marital affairs: that is laugh it off or ignore it, but certainly don’t hold people accountable for straying from their marital commitments. "It’s the 21st century for God’s sake," they say. "Why are we still holding people accountable for their promises to each other?"
Message to the media: Promises still count for something, really anytime but especially when exchanged on the altar of marriage in a church with God as your witness. Period.
And a final point: If one cannot remain loyal to one’s spouse, how can one remain loyal to anything or anyone else? All of the military services have a variation of the unofficial Marine Corps motto, "God, family, Country, Corps." Note where God and family fall in the order of loyalty and priority.
By the way, the official Marine Corps motto is "Semper Fidelis." "Always Faithful." America’s motto? "In God we trust." The French way is not the American way and God forbid that it ever is or will be, at least in the matter of faithfulness to one’s God, one’s spouse and one’s family.
Among the sordid details of his affair, Petraeus should be applauded for admitting he screwed up royally. Yes he did. And he deserved to be run out of town (out of the CIA) on a rail because of it. He used poor judgment. He displayed zero loyalty to his family and therefore his loyalty to the CIA has got to be questioned. He is not irreplaceable. Like the rest of us, he’s a flawed human being who can and did make mistakes and must pay for them. No excuses.
The good news? None of us are any different. And we’re only a miniscule part of four percent of the entire universe. Unless you believe in something bigger. And if you do? Then you may be forgiven for being human.
Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.