The hand wringing, eyebrow-raising, and joke-making over Mark Sanford’s trip to Argentina is beginning to run its course. Having read the emails between him and the Other Woman, it’s hard to mark this one down as just venal corruption and hypocrisy. The whole episode clearly filled Sanford and his love with anguish — moral anguish. He knew he was doing wrong, yet His trip South was an effort to make sense of the wreck his life was becoming.
My friend Rich Harwood posted in his Twitter account (you should follow him: @RichHarwood) this comment: SC Gov. Sanford fiasco raises basic Q for all of us: How do you leave time for yourself so you don’t feel overwhelemd, at loose ends?
Indeed, that is the question. Sanford cracked — and his life broke open.
The episode reminded me of a piece I wrote a bit ago about a Missouri lawyer named David Masters, who cracked under the pressure of what seemed his perfect life. Re-reading the piece, I thought you might like to read it too, as it is a gripping story and also raises some important questions. Here’s how it starts:
Strapped to a chair in a small, grey house on the edge of a Missouri town, 52-year-old David Masters begged for his life to end by lethal injection instead of by gunshot. His three captors, angered that he was three weeks tardy with rent and that he’d made unwanted advances on one of them, obliged by injecting him repeatedly with cocaine. The next day, his body was found near an Ozark river. Another toll taken by the culture of addiction.
David Masters had been a lawyer. Hearing that, we imagine him in a small, cheap storefront office near city hall, a bottle hidden in the desk and no receptionist. Maybe an ambulance chaser. A lost soul hanging on to whatever profession he’d once had.
Here is what David Masters once had. Seven children. A wife. The best home in his Missouri town, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A reputation for hard work and scrupulous integrity. Proteges, who have since succeeded. The favor and support of the governor, who had appointed him county prosecutor in 1990 and which office he held until 1998.
David Masters had been a shining success. People marveled at how hard he worked, putting in full-time hours on a part-time job while still keeping his private practice. It appears his life unraveled shortly after he was unseated from his prosecutor’s slot in 1998. Under what seems to have been a crushing amount of personal and professional overhead, he ran out of money and options. Then, he plain ran out, moving without telling anyone, including 65 clients, where he was going. His law license was suspended. In the court documents, he at one point listed himself as “homeless.” That might well have been better than where he was, living in that small grey house with a killing drug dealer for a housemate.
He’d cracked. . . .