Supplemental Sunday Sermonette: Being Duke Cunningham
The letter was simultaneously outrageous and heart-wrenching.At first, I gave the Sunday Sermonette to Duke because of his bizarre religious hypocrisy, detailed in the previous post. Then, it occurred to me that this was a good object lesson for a constructive humanist sermonette--Cunningham's letter says a lot about why the unexamined life sucks.
Cunningham says he hurts worse than anyone can imagine. Reading the letter, I believe it. The interesting thing is that he's suffering much more because of his failures of self-reflection than he would if he just admitted to himself that he did something wrong.
Cunningham doesn't see any contradiction between his Christian faith and his refusal to accept responsibility for his actions. I'm not even sure Cunningham is capable of accepting responsibility at this point. He just can't believe that he's anything except a victim.
Ironically, by casting himself as the victim, Cunningham is torturing himself. Perhaps the saddest part of the letter is when Duke denounces his former best friend:
If Cunningham were a more reflective person, he might not be writing off his entire friendship as a betrayal. If he could come to terms with his own culpability, he could acknowledge that he and his buddy got busted for crimes they committed together.
“Wade is the absolute devil and his lawyer is trying to save his donkey,” wrote Cunningham, reflecting his bitterness at what Wade has been telling federal investigators and the U.S. Attorney's Office. “I should have said no to the gifts. For that, I am truly sorry.”
In the letter, Cunningham clearly blames Wade for those transgressions. And, 16 months after insisting that he was not a personal friend of Wade's, Cunningham's letter describes what was once a close relationship.
“He showers you with gifts, he pretended to be my best friend for 16 years. Taking me to his wifes parents home many times. Taking Nancy and I to Sunday brunches with his wife, hunting together at his father in laws Eastern Shore place. Me taking him to a place where I hunt. When I was in town we were together,” he wrote.
In the letter, Cunningham comes across as a quivering ball of inchoate suffering. He feels bad about everything--his crime, his punishment, even his closest relationships. If he thought more clearly and settled on a defensible interpretation of his predicament, he'd eliminate several sources of misery immediately. Sure, if he took responsibility, he'd have to cope with being a bribe-taking Congressman, but at least he wouldn't have to deal with surges of indignant fury and the agony of imaginary betrayal.
Update: Elsewhere in the freethinking blogosphere, Revere offers a an excellent humanist meditation on what we can all learn from the Amish about rationality and forgiveness.