Archive for August, 2008

The John Edwards Situation

August 12, 2008

I try to always wear my seat belt. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes i just don’t get around to it. Still, when I break this law, I do so fully knowing that the consequence can reach much farther than just a ticket. My action has the potential to cause my loved ones irrevocable misery. By not wearing my seatbelt, I run the risk of forever changing the lives of two precious little boys and robbing them of the physical presence of the one person who loves them more than anyone ever will again. I risk depriving my life partner of his proclaimed soul mate. I risk making my father’s deepest fear a reality; that he will outlive one or more of his children. Because of the nature of my work, I have an easy hundred people who will potentially face the trauma of losing their helping professional, which is a loss that has the potential to cause regression, pain, and unnecessary grief in general. Say I don’t die. I have the potential to cost tax-payers and other co-prescribers of my health insurance a great deal of money. I will negatively impact the quality of life of everyone who loves me as they transition into the role of my helper. I can’t even begin to list the folks that would be affected if I take that unnecessary gamble and lose. It might be called an accident, but by choosing not to buckle, I take out the accidental component and make a conscious choice to betray a hell of a lot of people.

Yes, John Edwards cheated. I realize I am in a minority but I struggle with this particular behavior being the one behavior in which individuals feel compelled to insert themselves into other people’s relationships. My father (who to my knowledge never cheated on my mother during their marriage) told me years before I ever got married that it was hard to stay married to someone for any significant length of time without great hurts being heaped upon each other. Committing to each other usually involves a lot of promises that generally get broken. People’s hearts get broken. Children are hurt. Families go through trauma. Cheating is not the only betrayal that brings this kind of pain to a family. As a therapist, I can attest to the fact that many other betrayals cause pain that is just as damaging in a relationship/family. Yet, cheating is the one behavior that we use to measure a person’s integrity. We as a society don’t speak out on any other intermarital behavior the way we do about cheating on a spouse.

Furthermore (it is so wrong to use furthermore. Sometimes I just can’t help myself!), I have seen folks dismiss and/or defend public behavior that does seem to provide a much more concrete indicator of poor integrity. Specifically, John Edwards’s conduct during the debates comes to mind. He took cheap shots at Hilary and Obama both and preyed upon the division between them instead of using his position as a point of unification. It was self-serving and to me, much more disgusting than anything he did in the context of his marriage. His behavior was presented as an acceptable campaign tactic by the press. So publicly and directly slamming someone else’s character through lies and exaggeration on tv is ok but discreet betrayal of a personal nature is not? People can easily explain away publicly “shitty” behavior if it supports their cause, party or issue. Yet, these same people will rise up and condemn the same candidate they championed if a private interpersonal behavior that involves sex is brought to light.

When politicians don’t wear seatbelts, we don’t usually hear about it. And we probably don’t need to. Maybe we need to stop being so judgmental overall. If we want to take the moral/religious high-road, it would be helpful to remember some words that Jesus guy: (I know, he can be embarrassingly inconvenient to bring up during moral condemnation) Every single one of us is greater than the sum of our own worst actions.

Hell…that’s just what I think.