I read a Facebook status update this afternoon that stuck with me as I was chopping vegetables for dinner.
Wow. I mean, that's . . . harsh. Thinking back on my least favorite politicians, their spouses, other world leaders, etc., I have a hard time thinking, "You know, what this person really deserves is to lose a child in a car accident. Then to be diagnosed with terminal cancer while still having young children at home. Then to have a spouse publicly cheat on you, have unprotected sex with someone else, and father a child outside your marriage." I'm sure Elizabeth Edwards is no saint. But to say that she deserves this? I'm not sure anyone "deserves" that. And if someone does deserve to have such terrible things happen to them, I'm quite sure I'm not the one to made that judgment call.
But some of the political hate spewing around lately is so terribly personal. And, also, dishonest.
The other annoying comment I keep hearing regarding Edwards's infidelity goes something like this. "At least she finally grew a spine. She should have left him long ago; the only reason she stuck around was for the chance to live in a big white house."
There's a lot to unpack here:
- To suggest that adultery should be a universal marriage deal-breaker - and to judge anyone who stays with a spouse who has cheated - is narrow-minded and wrong.
- And to be so cynical about the value of someone else's marriage seems ridiculous (and ignorant) to me.
- Many people have called Elizabeth Edwards an "idiot" for believing her spouse until given good reason to doubt him. She's a smart woman. But surely trusting one's partner is more a virtue than a vice?
- My not-so-hidden agenda rears its head here: I believe in marriage. I did not make a lifetime commitment lightly. In addition to the pledge I made to my husband, my community, my God, I also have children. There are certainly situations where it is unhealthy or unsafe for a marriage to continue. Barring that, I believe that I do have a responsibility to try to "make it work" (to quote Tim Gunn) and build/maintain/nurture a healthy lifelong partnership. I'm not going to judge someone else for taking her commitment similarly seriously. (But I'm very glad I'm not married to John Edwards!)
- The sorts of comments I mention above are as offensive and ignorant as the ones I've heard suggesting that because Elizabeth Edwards looks her age, because she hasn't had "enough" plastic surgery, because she is not a size two, of course her husband was going to cheat. And deservedly so.
As it turns out, I have some pretty strong feelings about adultery and I think Edwards is a giant ass - regardless of any specifics of the situation and his marriage to which I am not privy. I appreciated a lot of what he had to say on the campaign trail, especially about poverty. But I never felt a personal sort of connection to him. In fact, I generally distrust extremely charismatic people of any political or religious conviction. (It's no coincidence that I joined my current church because of an intellectual connection with a pastor rather than the motivational speeches of a charismatic megachurch leader.) So I don't feel a sense of personal betrayal. Sadly, I almost expect this sort of behavior from our elected leaders lately. I don't condone it. But I'm not shocked anymore, either.
Alito's reaction notwithstanding, I liked tonight's speech. It breathed a hint of optimism into a year that's started off feeling pretty cynical to me. So mote it be.
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