Joe Lieberman and Tiger Woods: The "Self-Insured"

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It is remarkable to me that this country is so obsessed by the sexual infidelities of a golfer, Tiger Woods, which affects no one but his immediate family, his rich sponsors, and a tabloid crazy press, while Joseph Lieberman, the Senator from Connecticut who more than any other politician is responsible for the degradation of the health care bill, is given a pass for an act of true immorality that may cost thousands their lives in the coming years.

Growing up in the thirties and forties in a culturally Jewish family -- very little religious observance but a great deal of living by the golden rule -- the lessons my sister and I were taught were that we are not alone in this world and bear responsibility for the well being of others. Simple but complicated -- hard to learn -- requiring a lifetime of practice. It began with the family, the sense that we were there for each other, and branched out into the larger world. My mother would have taken one look at Lieberman's self-satisfied smirk and said, "He's bad for the Jews." By this she would have meant that his actions negated those Jewish principals on which she based her generous and loving life. Some would call them Christian principals, but no matter what denomination claimed these beliefs it all centered on the idea that we are not here for ourselves alone or to satisfy the needs of the rich and the powerful, but that we share this world with the poor and forlorn to whom we owe our deepest concern. A born aristocrat like FDR shared these principals, so the condition of birth did not matter -- all that mattered was the sense of obligation, sometimes called conscience or empathy, that affected one's acts towards others.

We all know co-religionists who hide behind tradition and a show of piety while living a life of total selfishness and greed. The fact that Lieberman is an Orthodox Jew has little to do with his malevolence -- all that it does, perhaps, is give him the sense that, having followed all the rituals of his faith, he is free to avoid all the principals behind it. He views himself as a member of the club -- the holy -- the spiritually "insured." Tiger Woods saw his celebrity, his superhero image as his insurance against his own transgressions. 

I don't wish to join the chorus of the saved, led by TMZ, tabloid TV and Rupert Murdoch, who have turned Tiger's sexual misadventures into a cottage industry - but these two men, sports hero and senator have more in common than one might imagine. They both worship the self - the ego - the supreme I -- and believe that their self matters more than the selfhood of others - be it in Tiger's case a wife and children -- in Lieberman's a population of the poor who lack health care benefits. At what point does worship of the self -- that very false idol -- become an act of evil? At the very least it is a form of spiritual isolation, a small death in the middle of one's life. All that can be said for certain is that the worship of self is an act of the deepest stupidity and it has its consequences.

The power enjoyed by a Joseph Lieberman is ephemeral, and can be turned against the self as easily as the adulation of a sport's hero can boomerang. Both men have entered the Hall of Shame this month and it's likely that they will be taking up residence there for the rest of their lives. Tiger may find some solace and redemption in the years ahead, for lip-smacking hypocrisy on the part of the media can only go so far before it becomes tedious, but he will have to live with the fact that he has injured himself, his wife, and his children irreparably. And Joe Lieberman? Sadly, one senses that this man is a prisoner of his own certainties, and doomed to a life of self-justification, a heavy load to carry. Sad man with his silly clown's face: sadder still for those whom he has so grievously injured through his health care antics; his circus of cheap political tricks and power games based upon a need to revenge himself against those liberals who turned against him in his election, and who forgave him for the sake of expediency. Is it their forgiveness he finds so unforgiveable as he asserts his power ("I own the magic vote") in a crises? This is fool's fool who has caused great harm to the innocent as he preens his power before the world. God save us from the righteous. The sinners can take care of themselves.


Contributing writer, Sherman Yellen, screenwriter, playwright, and lyricist, has won two Emmy Awards, first for his drama John Adams, Lawyer in the PBS series The Adams Chronicles, and later for An Early Frost, a groundbreaking drama about AIDS in America. His Beauty and the Beast was nominated for an Emmy and won the Christopher Award. Yellenwas nominated for a Tony Award for his book for the Broadway musical, The Rothschilds. Yellen's other plays include Strangers, December Fools and Josephine Tonight! Sherman Yellen received a lifetime achievement award in Arts and Letters from Bard College.

Labels: EnvironmentInsuranceJoseph LeibermanTiger Woods