View from US: Heroes and hypocrites
Stale news: Biographer Paula Broadwell is back with her surgeon husband to light up his home and hearth during Thanksgiving. The couple was last seen carrying their two sleepy boys into their home in North Carolina. Later, like a dutiful mom, Paula was spotted behind the wheel driving the boys to school. When the scandal broke, it broke Broadwell’s heart too. She was snapped (sobbing?) before a kitchen sink at the Washington home of her brother. For shelter, she had fled to him.
Crying inconsolably, her brother said: “She is filled with guilt and shame for what she’s done and she’s incredibly sorry for the pain she’s caused her husband, her family, Petraeus’s family.”
This is a fairytale ending? Our heroine is happily home reunited with her husband and kids. The world grinds on while the media hides in the bush looking to bait a new victim.
Poor General Petraeus’s skeleton cupboard rattled so hard that it burst open and spilled its secrets. The CIA director strenuously tried to keep the closet door shut but the two women wrestling inside got out of control. The hungry media waiting for juice got a Humvee-load from the three.
Call this a crass comedy or a Greek tragedy, but the late night comics of America have bantered, burlesqued, mocked and satirised unforgivingly about the Petraeus peccadillos.
Laughter is the best medicine, Reader’s Digest magazine never failed to remind us. Allow me to add another line to it: Nothing like laughter when it’s at the expense of another.
As voyeurs, we conveniently forgo self-examination. Lying stored in the deep dark recesses of our brains are actions that are best left bottled. Few can claim to be angels, or saints. Sins we have stored in the book of judgement. They are of varying degrees. It’s best to push the book under the rug and instead seek salacious satisfaction from someone found in a compromising position. (excuse the cliché). We get overly excited when some world celebrity — civil or military — is found in bed with someone other than his/her spouse?
Hypocrites and heroes are two parts of the same. While we, the 99 per cent don’t fall in the heroes column but qualify for the hypocrites row (pretending to be good, when we are not), the media’s interest in our affairs is zero, us being nonentities. When heroes turn hypocrites, the media goes into a hysterically high overdrive.
General Petraeus is one such example.
Many of our generals, admirals, air marshals make it to the ‘heroes and hypocrites’ list but the media in Pakistan shy away from opening their cans of worms for fear of reprisals. It’s like fools rushing in where angels fear to tread. The only two sex scandals to surface in the military are Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s brush with the British prostitute Christine Keeler and General Yahya Khan’s parlour games with ‘General’ Rani during the 1971 war.
Few of you remember the Profumo affair that rocked Britain in 1961. John Profumo, 45, was the war minister. He met Christine Keeler, 19, at a pool party thrown by Lord Astor at his estate in Cliveden. Pakistan’s high commissioner to UK, General Yusuf (Joe) Afridi gatecrashed President Ayub to the party, where Christine Keeler was cavorting about in the nude. Profumo fell for Keeler that led to the Minister’s disgrace and the most enduring scandal of the century. Because Keeler was two timing with a Russian spy Captain Yevgeny Ivanov, Profumo eventually resigned in 1963. He assured Prime Minister Harold Macmillan that he had not compromised national security in any way, same as Petraeus’s mistress perhaps getting to classified information.
The President of Pakistan, Ayub Khan, received considerable media coverage just because he happened to be at a wrong place at the wrong time. I remember how our national newspapers carried lurid descriptions of the pool party Ayub attended. Why was he there? Questioned some. Eventually, the whole brouhaha faded with Dr Stephen Ward, the man who introduced Keeler to Profumo committing suicide. The lovely lithe brunette Keeler today is a dumpy dour woman of 70. The two loves in life are cozying up with her cats and feeding wild birds. Profumo, her lover, has been dead for six years.
As I said earlier, sex scandals don’t worry our rulers because the media never dare expose them. General Yahya Khan was not sacked for ‘General’ Rani but because he lost the war.
The Pakistani press prefers going after financial scandals of the top brass, politicians and bureaucrats. What they do in the privacy of their bedrooms never finds its way to the newspapers. It’s considered politically incorrect.
Is media a hypocrite or a hero? This question poses an oxymoron. The media is a hero and a hypocrite at the same time. When it investigates and exposes financial misdemeanours of its leaders, it’s a hero; when it pulls blinders on its eyes to shut out their Lothario lifestyles, it’s a hypocrite.
Enter YouTube to rush in where our media fears to tread. Remember the YouTube clip four years ago of a boozy chairman Federal Board of Revenue dancing to Madam Noor Jehan’s Punjabi number about a woman waiting for her lover on the bridge of a river but the guy stands her up? The mujra was in General Musharraf’s honour. He too stands up to dance, later in the video. We see the NAB chairman Naveed Ahsan and his misses among the audience along with many other generals and their spouses.
On these pages I wrote four years ago: what’s wrong with a little fun? Can’t the powerful shake a leg without getting their dancing steps frozen for posterity on YouTube for Pakistanis here, there and everywhere to gawk at? Why must we be such killjoys? I think we’re hypocritical as well. While it’s okay for you and me to dance, or while it’s okay for our men to go to mujra parties and shower money on curvaceous dancers, it’s not okay for our leaders to swing and be caught on camera committing such a “sin.” Do you want rulers who are robots? If not, then stop cribbing.”
And thereby ends this tale. Stories of forbidden love by our rulers will die with them since the media in Pakistan is too timid to write about it. Kudos to the American press for outing the truth about their hero David Petraeus and turning him into a hypocrite.