When we learned last week that John Edwards did, in fact, commit adultery against his wife in 2006, someone posted a link to the news report on a forum to which I belong. It attracted more than 90 posts from a few dozen or so women, debating whether the story was news or not.
Some thought absolutely not. Others weren't so sure. But the posts that really attracted my attention were the ones that pushed the affair aside altogether and thought the news was more about the lies than the cheating, if there was any news here at all.
Granted, they were making the point that the affair is private business, to be handled by the husband and wife, and I agree with that. And I'm sure it will be. But to so nonchalantly push the affair aside, to say that it's immaterial to the life and ability of a politician, I confess, disturbs me. From where, I had to wonder, did they think the lies came?
Without the adultery, my friends, there would be no need to lie.
But some of these women couldn't or wouldn't connect the two. They insisted on separating the cheating from the lies, to compartmentalize, as if they had something to protect. That, in turn, made me wonder if they understand that's the modus operandi a cheater uses to save his butt.
He may think, "What she doesn't know can't hurt her." But it can.
He may think, "As long as I don't get caught..." But he generally will, some how, some way.
And even though it may look from the outside that he's doing well, the inside tells a different story.
So, maybe he can compartmentalize for a while. Maybe he can, like my women friends, separate the lies from the cheating for a while. But the underlying message is still there. Elizabeth could sense it on some level. He knew what he was doing on all levels. And his colleagues more than likely witnessed his character flaw in ways they may be discussing and hashing out right now at this very moment. Compartmentalizing only works so well for so long.
What I mean is that the choice Edwards made to take part in a sexual relationsip outside of his marriage--clearly without his wife's permission--illustrates a serious character flaw that cannot be solely contained within the bounds of adultery. Just as I've discussed here so often, character represents who we are at our very core. And if his belief system allowed him to get away with adultery, you can imagine he's gotten away with much more than that. And, unfortunately, he probably had plenty of people to shield him from his own truths, to allow his lies to continue, to act as enblers. The betrayal, unfortunately, extends beyond the marital bed.
So that's why the adultery matters. Not for the need to know what goes on inside someone's bedroom in a voyeuristic sort of way. But to know what a person is really made of, to know who he really is at his core. If he's not honest, and we can know about that ahead of time, I think it's something voters are entitled to know. That's why I would agree with the media that this is news. Is it news I want to hear? No, no way. I'd prefer we never heard such stories again.
But I refuse to believe as some of these women also believe--that politicians can be expected to cheat, that it's the nature of man to cheat, and other myths to which I refuse to subscribe. I may be naive, but I believe in the ability to choose. And I believe that marital vows mean something. And I'd like to think that there are men out there who believe that as well.
And for the women who think otherwise, I hope you're not speaking from experience, because adultery is never okay in my book.