Our Shrinking Zones of Privacy


Along with, I am sure, millions of other Americans, I was appalled that anyone had the tastelessness, the insensitivity and the unmitigated gall to ask Chelsea Clinton about her father’s notorious affair with infamous intern Monica Lewinksy. Most of us agreed with the former first daughter when she said her family’s internal struggle with that affair is none of the questioner’s business.

Okay, say it again. A famous person, the offspring of both a former president and a presidential candidate no less, publicly told a nosy questioner that some things are none of the public’s business. One sensed America, embarrassed by the question, breathed a sigh of relief.

It is not that America is in love with Chelsea Clinton. But we still have some regard for privacy — or what is left of privacy when politicians like Chelsea’s parents have done their best to diminish it.

It is ironic that at a time in our history when we have radically broadened the legal claims of privacy, we appear to have largely emptied it of content. The Clintons and others at the apex of power in America seem to have little regard for our privacy. Their compassion won’t allow it. They feel too much of our pain. Your health and mine is their business. Not just your actual health right now (I feel fine, thank you), but your insurance against future illness is the government’s business.

Your sex life is the government’s business. What? You didn’t know that? Why do you think the new prescription drug benefit in the Medicare program covers Viagra? Why do you suppose there are federally funded and state-mandated sex education programs in your children’s schools? Why do you think homosexual "rights" is a public cause? What people do in the privacy of their own bedroom is for you to know about, care about, empathize over. It is for candidates to talk about in public debates. It is an issue, man. What isn’t?

Who would have thought a few short decades ago that the right of people to their own sexual orientation and activity is so private a matter that it must be adjudicated by the United States Supreme Court, lest state laws touching the subject remain out of touch with the zeitgeist? And, of course, abortion, which used to be unsafe, illegal and rare, is such a privacy issue that it has been in the public crosshairs continually since the Supreme Court made it a federal constitutional issue 35 years ago.

Today, homosexuality is such a private matter that we must know not just a celebrity’s sexual orientation, but even our neighbor’s if our neighbor feels the need to assert his "gay pride." It’s such a private matter that we must change our public laws regarding marriage to accommodate the "alternative lifestyle."

Abortion became a "constitutional right," because it is covered by an undefined but judicially discerned right to privacy. It is so private that every nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court is asked to publicly pledge his support to a "woman’s right to choose." And there must be public support of this private right in the form of federal funding for it, according to the abortion "rights" advocates. So if you are privately, personally opposed to abortion, you still have the obligation to support it publicly with your tax dollars. Apparently, our government has decided that a public benefit accrues from the exercise of the "freedom of choice" when it is exercised in a way approved by those who are pro-abortion. (I choose to call "pro-choice" by its real name.) There is a benefit, in other words, to the brutal killing of an average of 4,000 helpless infants a day in progressive, compassionate America.

Both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama support federal funding for abortion. I would guess that the former first daughter, out stumping for her mother, does, too. Would she have an abortion? Well that’s not our business, is it? Should we pay for it if she were poor and underprivileged and not the child of the Clintons? Well, that’s the government’s business, isn’t it?

I can’t imagine Chelsea Clinton telling the government to mind its own business, even in a Republican administration. Can you?

Manchester, NH, resident Jack Kenny [send him mail] is a freelance writer.