The Red-Light District

Exploring the carnal and taboo

Love and Hate

General David Petraeus has been vilified for a personal transgression.

As any psychology 101 professor will preach, there’s a thin line between love and hate. The two aren’t diametrically opposed. Consequently, when something bad happens, it’s easy to trash an icon or vilify a hero. This reality was made apparent to General David Petraeus, a war hero and, until recently, Director of the CIA.

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Petraeus had an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. After the news broke, Petraeus resigned his post as the Director of the CIA.

Extramarital affairs hurt spouses and children. They can destroy the fabric of a marriage. But we must remember that an affair is a personal matter. When the media drags a person--who spent years of his life defending the United States--through the ringer, we should be compassionate. We should recognize that his personal transgressions don’t sully his acts of bravery.

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It’s sad that Donald Petraeus felt compelled to resign as the Director of the CIA. It’s sad for him and sad for this country which could have used his continuing expertise in the War on Terrorism. Unfortunately, however, Petraeus is one in a long line of prominent people who have been derailed by personal transgressions. Another recent example is Bill Clinton who had an affair and lied about it under oath. (In retrospect, lying under oath turned out to be a bigger problem for Clinton than what he was lying about—having “sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky.)

Most people are neither all good nor all bad. Sure you may ignore that panhandler with an almost religious devotion but maybe you coach your son’s soccer team pro bono. We need to break away from this borderline thinking. I hope that history recognizes that Petraeus was a loyal soldier who made a personal mistake. Furthermore, he didn’t deserve having public perception turn from respect and admiration to loathing. Where was this media spotlight when he was defending our country?

Finally, it could be argued that Petraeus violated the military’s ethics code. But even if he did violate the ethics code, I still don’t feel that he deserves the public backlash and repercussions.

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Naveed Saleh, M.D., M.S., attained a medical degree from Wayne State University School of Medicine and a master's degree in science journalism from Texas A&M.

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