While everyone is jumping on the John Edwards Castigation Bandwagon, I’d like to present some contrary thoughts on the issue. One of the first to jump on the Castigation Bandwagon, which I will henceforth abbreviate as the CB, was David Bonior, Barack Obama’s campaign manager. This didn’t just disappoint me, it made me very angry, and Obama should publicly disown his statements. Mr. Bonior should tread more carefully, since there but for the grace of God goes he.
The gist of the CB is that not only did Edwards have an affair, but he had it during the time his wife learned she had terminal metastatic breast cancer. Like there can be no greater example of scumbagism. I submit that that’s exactly why he had an affair–because his wife had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. That if he were ever going to have an affair, this was precisely the most likely time for it to happen.
I think people underestimate the powerful emotions created in the friends and families of those diagnosed with cancer. The person with cancer has to come to terms with it in some way; there is a level of acceptance that must be reached. But in many ways, it’s worse for the person who is going to be left behind. There is anger (“Why me?”), survivor’s guilt, and helplessness. It’s easy for me to understand why John Edwards could have succumbed to an affair, where for some brief time he could escape the overwhelming knowledge of his deadly and certain future.
Mr. Edwards explains his conduct by saying that over the course of his campaigns, he began to believe he was special, and that he became increasingly narcissistic and egocentric. While it may seem admirable for him to castigate himself in this way, it makes me wonder if he knows his own motivations. He is afraid. Maybe he does understand this, but doesn’t want to say so. It is, after all, his wife who is dying, not him. Can he not at least match her strength and courage? Well sometimes people can, and sometimes they can’t. It’s called human frailty. How would you handle it if the person you’ve been “been in love with for 30 years”, as he puts it, was dying?
My first, and continuing, reaction to the story was great sadness. What’s called for here is compassion, for both John and Elizabeth. The CB’ers need to step off, and stop with the self-righteousness and despicable glee over this tragic but all too human story.