The John Edwards Situation

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.

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5 Responses to “The John Edwards Situation”

  1. Lucy Says:

    I never thought you were an asshole, but the companion blog, how intriguing! I agree with you…as a culture, we make way too many judgments based on how much sex people are having and with whom when there are many, many more important things to consider. What I disliked about Edwards was his wimpy-ass stand on gay marriage.

    However, I still don’t see Clinton-Lewinsky as merely an affair. She was a white house intern who was barely older than his daughter. I saw his Clinton’s actions as exploitative and disgusting (and I voted for him twice), and I also thought Lewinsky took a far bigger hit than she deserved with all of the media attention on her weight, her alleged sluttiness, etc. I work with young women that age all of the time, and I understand how she might have gotten immersed in that relationship. I don’t think that his affair with Lewinsky undid all of Clinton’s political work, but he handled himself like a pig, even after he was caught. That to me is the true measure…whether or not one has the ability and the character to apologize in a way that is responsible and forthright.

  2. crseum Says:

    Aww Lucy! Im so glad you are my first comment! Yeah but then there were the poverty things and some other progressive stuff. I was torn. Here is the thing about the Lewinsky thing. I agree to an extent, but I still think by not affording her some accountability, we take away her personal power. She was young yes, but she knew he was married. Plain and simple. I have always struggled to see her as a victim of him. She herself described the relationship as mutual even years later. A victim of the press? Yes. Having said that, he was still a pig but again, I know the POTUS is technically allowed to say what he wants but then again, not so much. Say he did take the “Im a douche” route you mentioned in your post. The political ramifications might have appeared to be such that he would not be allowed to continue doing good things if he took that route. And he might have been willing to do that, but his staff may have given an ultimatum. Or maybe Hilary did that made him realize he would do more damage with the mea culpa than without. I only bring this up because of something very similar that happened at work that made me realize everyone answers to someone whether other people know it or not. Then again, maybe he just was a pig.

  3. Lucy Says:

    Oh, I don’t see Lewinsky as not culpable, I just don’t see her as the primary culprit (as she was portrayed by the media). She had her share of power, but her share was far smaller than his. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Lewinsky described their relationship as mutual; many women in our culture, even today, even as they get older, are unable to see their oppression.

    Also, didn’t the impeachment trials (my memory is fuzzy here, and I’m too lazy to look it up) stem from Clinton lying under oath about the affair? Wasn’t all of the mess a result of his refusing to take the “I’m a douche” route? Maybe it really was as easy as him saying “I did it, and it was wrong.” We can guess/believe that he was advised NOT to say these things, but doesn’t that take away his personal power?

    Although, I’m sure it can be argued that the question was never relevant, but then the answer is, “that question isn’t relevant” not “I did not have sex with that woman.” Maybe I’m naive and idealistic, but I think the higher standard rule applies to our president, whomever the person, whatever the party.

    By the way, I’m not at all blind to President Clinton’s work on poverty et al. I’m just not going to give him a pass for it. I’m also not blind to Obama’s shady real estate dealings, about which, he lied and is still lying. I will vote for Obama, but I’m not going to revere him because he is or was my chosen candidate. That’s what I see as what happened with Clinton. Our reverence for him, as a true liberal, made us excuse (for some, even defend) his unacceptable actions. Lewinsky wasn’t entirely a victim, but ultimately, Clinton held more power than her and as Batman says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

    Can you believe I ended with a Batman quote. How douchy!

  4. Pascal Ebert Says:

    Shame on those who peddle the snake oil of Hope. Woe to those in whose hearts it finds purchase.

  5. Jay Says:

    I didn’t know having a serious blog was allowed. I’ll have to check the instruction manual again.

    I don’t care about politicians personal lives. I don’t think that cheating on one’s wife or having questionable dealings with shady characters necessarily means someone is not a good public servant. Ted Kennedy comes to mind pretty quickly. His personal life was in shambles for most of his career and yet he has been a VERY effective and good public servant. Even if you disagree with his liberalness.

    The same goes for some people who have lived exemplary lives but totally suck as senators or congressmen or governors or whatever. There are plenty of them too. Jimmy Carter comes to mind. (Just picking on the democrats today I guess.)

    But, what drives me crazy is setting the bar higher for one party or for certain people. John Edward’s career is destroyed by one affair, while John McCain’s loooooooong history of womanizing and cheating is simply not allowed to be discussed. Things like that are bug me more than who kept his zipper zipped.

    As for Clinton, I don’t see Monica as a victim. She might have been young, but she was far from innocent. But, it isn’t worth it to get into that discussion either.

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