THE MORAL FABRIC IS INSIDE OUT! : What CIA Chief Petraeusʼ Resignation Reveals about our National Moral Fabric

by ABCrane, former Stanford employee

church and state 2In November, CIA chief David Petraeus allegedly resigned due to his guilt over engaging in an extra marital affair. “After being married for over 37 years”, Petraeus said in a letter to colleagues, “ I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours.”

Speaking in his defense, Obama stated, “By any measure, he was one of the outstanding general officers of his generation, helping our military adapt to new challenges and leading our men and women in uniform through a remarkable period of service in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he helped our nation put those wars on a path to a responsible end.”

While Petraeus’ affair did not faze me, Obama’s praise of his involvement in our foreign wars chimed loud the great bells of historical irony! What occurred to me on such a deep level was just how archaic the moral fabric of modern society and politics truly are. Why is our country outraged over an extra marital affair while either indifferent or supportive of our illegal, cruel, and corrupt military involvement throughout the Middle East? How does one man stepping out on his wife even begin to compare to that same man leading a war effort that destroys countless lives, the environment, and the economy?

Our nation, it seems, is one great big small town engaging in petty gossip while ignoring the proverbial contamination of the public baths. We are still more concerned with sewing the scarlet letter A on the moral fabric of society than we are trying to create a more peaceful, sustainable world. But why? With a growing number of individuals on the fringe engaging in green business, social movements, and economic justice, why do the overwhelming majority status quo still cling to such narrow social moral codes? And then how do we even begin to re-focus a more holistic, sustainable global consciousness upon the real issues facing our people and planet?

The more complex a nation or society, the more complex its set of rules, mores, and laws. While earlier societies revolved around unspoken rules governing their most primal functioning, such as eating and sexual behaviors, modernity’s legal system consists of endless regulations for everything from labor codes to traffic laws to foreign policy. But, no matter how “modern” or complex our legal system, we still seem to be so deeply rooted in moral standards that have been passed down from our more recent roots in organized, monotheistic religions, no matter how psychologically or spiritually limiting.

While this moral jet lag has always puzzled — and disturbed — me, I have found sound hypothesizing to this great mystery in the works of Wilhelm Reich. Reich was an Austrian doctor, psychoanalyst, and one of the truly great thinkers of the twentieth century. His greatest contribution was to shed light on this very mystery. He rooted our moral misdirection is organized religion’s sexual and emotional repression. By disturbing our most basic instincts, he hypothesized, we were creating a bitter, angry, violent and confused populace. He set out to prove his theories by comparing certain premodern societies, who had low levels of sexual repression, with societies based in organized religion that condemned premarital sex and adolescent sexual exploration. The societies rooted in sexually repressive religious morality turned out to be the most violent. His book, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, elaborated greatly on his theory, rooting fascistic hatred in this repression. Thinking about our nations reaction to Petraeus’ affair, I can see clearly just how rooted bipartisan politics are in this masked religious repression. How ironic it is that the religious right, who wants to “save lives” by limiting women’s right to choose are the same party who relish in vicious war campaigns abroad!

Wilhelm Reich wrote extensively on his observation that the modern militaristic mindset was also a “character armoring” expressed in the posture of the physical body. Sexual repression led to a stagnation of the vital energy he referred to as “orgone” and a subsequent “lashing out” of this repressed energy in the form of physical violence, emotional anger, and mental rigidity. Wars were fought by soldiers who were

subconsciously driven by such psycho-somatic disturbances. A society, then, would only cease to wage and engage in wars after transcending the influence of sexual repression on a mass level. Domestic violence, too, would decline as the masses awakened to psycho-somatic liberation. Should not a rational world populace be more concerned with the devastation of war — whether supportive of it or not — than what one man does in the privacy of his own hotel room with another consenting adult?

But while Wilhelm Reich so succinctly stated the problem, he perspired to invent and implement healing techniques that proved to work very effectively. Unfortunately, Reich’s books were a few of the many burned by both the Austrian and US governments. His ideas soon faded back into the all pervasive oppression of society. Critically, we must make the world aware of his ideas and healing techniques once again. This article’s mission, unlike so many tabloid and mainstream media sources, is not to condemn Petraeus’ affair but rather to call into question a much more critical concern — the ill-focus of our national attention. Until we begin to prioritize addressing the life or death issues over petty “moral” scandals we will remain in a historical rut that threatens our very existence.

While Petraeus may have lied to his wife, his colleagues, and his nation, the powers that be — and the people themselves!— have been pulling the moral fabric over our eyes for centuries. The fringe activist efforts to enlighten the status quo still lingering in the darkness of our religious past, then, must begin to shed light on this very past. We must choose to be the ones to walk away from Omelas — but to return with new ways of perceiving and experiencing the world. We must always start with an examination of the roots of each problem before setting out to prune the surface of the tree. For each murmur of “big small town gossip” let us rebuttal with our expansive, whole picture perspective and drown out the noise of mindless global chatter. Let us be the STATIC in the noise, yet let this static tune in again to a heightened clarity essential for bringing about a new and better world.


A Bachelor’s degree in Sociology taught Crane how to better analyze the problems of the world.  A double major in Creative Writing taught her how to imagine, innovate, invent—and write!—about solutions to those problems. Her continued self-education includes areas such as holistic nutrition, green business, progressive education,  and social activism, as well as her successful completion of a course in business offered by a wonderful non-profit organization, Women’s Initiative. Residing in Sunnyvale, CA, Crane is preparing to launch an innovative  internet cafe that will provide teens with an exciting real world after-school alternative and public meeting place  to call their own. 

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