Saturday, August 9, 2008

My shame and pride in John Edwards ... and RIP Bernie Mac

First, I want to start with the second part of that title - funny actor and comedian Bernie Mac died at the age of 50 yesterday of pneumonia. I was never the biggest Bernie Mac fan, although I found him entertaining when I watched his work; I mainly remember him from Charlie's Angels II, and an episode or two of the Bernie Mac Show. But anyone with a family who dies at such a young age deserves to be mourned; he had so much living, loving, and entertaining to do, and it is unfortunate that his life was cut so short for a disease that so many of us overcome with proper medical treatment. My thoughts are with his family at this time.

Speaking a family my thoughts are also with, my thoughts go to Edwards family right now as well. John Edwards, for those not into US Politics, was John Kerry's Vice-Presidential running mate during the 2004 presidential election, and was running against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination this year. In recent months, an affair he had in 2006, while his wife was recovering from cancer, has come to light. In his statement to the press admitting this affair yesterday, John Edwards acknowledged the affair, said he had already spoken to his family about it two years ago, and that they had healed and continued to heal together.

It's tough to know what to think here - on the one hand, it always disappoints me to hear of these things. To me, affairs are the ultimate betrayal of a marriage and should be rare, if they happen at all. And yet it is sadly common amidst celebrities, athletes, politicians - the people that unfortunately we look up to and admire the most - to the point it feels like 'everyone does it', which they shouldn't and in fact don't. But given that those famous people are in exactly the situations that make affairs most likely - often away from family, in high pressure situations that no one else could quite understand, feeling isolated and alone, being idolized and worshipped in an inappropriate way by the rest of us - is it that surprising? And does an (admittedly huge) personal transgression that lowers my respect for John Edwards as a man and husband, mean that my respect for him as a politician should be lowered as well? He had many, many good ideas as a presidential candidate, and if I were an American he would have been, andI think still would be, my choice for the next POTUS. And yet ... I find this reprehensible.

And while perhaps I no longer feel bad for his family in the sense of they've gone through this and dealt with it and moved on - having it dredged up again in the press cannot be easy, nor can it be fair. I regret that, if this has indeed been cleared up in a private and mature way, as it should be as a private matter, that it had to be dragged out for public consumption. Should it have ruined his marriage? Perhaps. Should it ruin this man's public reputation and political career? I don't think so; and if Elizabeth can forgive him, than perhaps the rest of us - to whom he has done no harm - should too. Especially since he conducted himself in a more respectful manner than most other philandering politicians; he admitted this to his wife and cleared the air almost two years before being outed, with no threat from the press that this story was about to blow. That takes some kind of guts, that he took private responsibility without being 'outed', and without dragging his poor wife out on all kinds of public mea culpa speeches (paging Elliot Spitzer).

I guess here's my bottom line - John Edwards' behaviour was reprehensible towards his wife and family, and it is their prerogative to forgive him or not. However far as the public is concerned though, this is a two-year-old story, no longer news, for which the main people affected have forgiven him. It is not an ongoing affair, nor was it soliciting prostitution, nor did he subbourn perjory ... whatever we decide to allow to become of the man himself politically, I do hope this story doesn't get dragged around in the papers for weeks where all it will do is hurt the innocent bystanders of this story - his family.

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