Ms. Hester Prynne & The Return of Her Scarlet Letter

Spouse’s face lit up when I answered, “Sex” to his question, “What are you going to write about today?

He added a height to his frame as he stood a tad taller when his curiosity slipped out with, “Exactly what kind of sex?”

My answer caused him to slump.  “Republican sex.”

“That can’t be good,” his deflated stance commented.

“No, actually it is good.  The Republicans in some South Carolina county just made a strong environmental statement:  If you want to run for public office you have to take a purity test and a pledge that says no sex before marriage and no porn.  It’s the  logical answer to no contraception—no sex. And I’m all for it because the planet is over populated as it is, and we certainly do not need baby booms.”

“Somehow you just made the word sex unsexy.”

“Duh! Think about it.   As of last December 6,930,055,154 people populated the planet .  The United States harbors the third largest population.  We should be slowing down the procreation.”

“Honey, that rhyme would kill any romantic mood in the room,” my poetic spouse remarked.

“I predict less Laurens County Republicans, at the very least.  Ahhh, that’s the county in South Carolina that requires vetting the morality of potential Republican candidates before they file,” I  explained while I turned on the computer.  “I’ll bring up the story. Can you pour us some hot coffee?”

The steaming coffee seduced us into another half hour of avoiding the day’s responsibilities.

“Okay, here’s what the local newspaper, The Clinton Chronicle reports:

 To be on the ballot as a Republican in Laurens County, you do not have to be “just” Republican.

You, apparently, have to be the “right kind” of Republican.

You must oppose abortion, in any circumstances.

You must uphold the right to have guns, all kinds of guns…

You must favor, and live up to, abstinence before marriage.

You must be faithful to your spouse. Your spouse cannot be a person of the same gender, and you are not allowed to favor any government action that would allow for civil unions of people of the same sex.

You cannot now, from the moment you sign this pledge, look at pornography.

There’s a bunch more stuff about sovereignty and taxes and such—the usual banter. But the kicker is all candidates must sign this pledge and they must be interviewed.”

“Brings to mind The Scarlet Letter,” spouse replied.

“Brings to mind Puritans.  Heck, some of my ancestors were Puritans. But being human, I suspect that  most of this pledging will begat another sin–lying.  Some things don’t change. BUT maybe it will and Laurens County will see a drop in population growth—and that’s good for the environment.  The planet does not need one more baby to feed.”

“What would you do if you had to take a purity test?” spouse asked (thinking I might turn this subject to his delight).

At this point I thought a shot of scotch in my coffee might help me find the right answer.  But I don’t like scotch, so I left it open, “They would either give me an F- or an A+ on the test. Depends on how the inquisitors interpret my reply.” I sipped my scotch-free coffee, then bounced back, “How would you pass?”

“Not going there.”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea.”

The more I think about this trend of making sex an issue in politics, I don’t know if I should laugh or cry–or pull out my rabbit ears and skunk tail so that I can run naked down the street screaming.

Don’t read me wrong in thinking that I believe we should “love the one you’re with,” or the aging Sixties concept of free love, because I don’t.  Don’t read that I’m a sexual prude, either.  I love my intimate moments with spouse before and after our marital vows—which we both took very seriously. But don’t you dare judge my morality, or anyone else’s morality by your alleged morality.

When these constraints are placed upon us, human nature prevails and breeds hypocrites.

Ideally, politicians are about making laws for the betterment of society.  I don’t give a rat’s behind if that politician had premarital sex and is not hypocritical about his or her action.  I could give three flying hoops if a politician might use a little porn to spice up his or her time with a mate.  Besides, porn might be the better choice than ingesting phosphodiesterase inhibitors for the occasional down-time—as it were.

Nathaniel Hawthorn portrayed this kind of social piety and hypocrisy in his 1850 publication, The Scarlet Letter. The setting is 200 years before Hawthorne’s publication, but a nagging circumstance that continues well past those early American days.

If Hester Prynne was a real person alive today, she would likely keep checking the front of her buttoned up blouse for a big nasty red-letter A. I imagine Hester driving  back home to Boston (in her red Prius) after her wintertime Florida vacation with her fiancé. Hester detours from I-95 to visit a friend in Laurens County.  There she reads the local paper’s report on the purity pledge requirement for Republican candidates.  Thankfully, her fiancé doesn’t plan to run for office there.  He’s a medical intern at Boston Medical Center.  But chills run up both Hester and her fiancé’s spines when they drive through Richmond, VA and the news reports that those lawmakers seriously considered requiring a vaginal probe prior to an abortion—regardless of circumstances.  And as her fiancé flips through the radio stations they hear a popular provocateur who went on a three-day rant about a law student he called a slut and a prostitute for her Senate testimony arguing why insuring prescribed birth control for women should not be the the decision of her employer.

Hester turns to her fiancé and asks, “Dr. Dimmesdale, are the Puritans back?”

It would seem so, Ms. Prynne.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s