Your Cheating Heart

Lord, we do love us some drama around a politician boning someone other than his wife, don’t we?

John Edwards became the latest perpetrator-slash-victim in this wonderful cycle, and folks are spouting off all over the place about how terrible it is what he did to his wife, Elizabeth and how it shows his complete lack of moral character and damn aren’t we lucky he didn’t get the Democratic nod because either (a) he’d lose to McCain for the infidelity [if of course we were to ignore that McCain left his disabled wife for a younger, and rich, woman] or (b) we’d have a philanderer in the Oval Office!

Oh, my God! A politician who sleeps around. Stop the presses!

There have been saner heads in the world of commentating and blogging that have pointed out the fact that fidelity is hardly a necessity for being a good politician and that holding politicians to a higher moral standard than other professions doesn’t make much sense. But there still a lot of venom being sloshed into Edwards’ face, from men and women alike. In in my humble opinion, though, we’ve given the country over to greedy, selfish, heartless folks for eight years. Is fucking someone other than your wife really so much worse than fucking people over?

Look, before I go any farther, let me be clear that I don’t support adultery. I have never desired to cheat on my wife and I hope I never do. And I didn’t like what John Edwards did in terms of cheating; it is disappointing. But there are a few reasons I realized that I don’t have a right to get all judgmental and self-righteous about what he did.

First off, unlike Bill Clinton and Elliot Spitzer and some other notable randy politicians in recent years, there is no indication that what Edwards did was some habitual thing. So far, it looks more like an isolated event.

Second of all, Elizabeth isn’t throwing her husband to the wolves but keeping his back, and it’s not my place to be outraged on her behalf if she’s coming to grips with it. Hell, Mrs. Blue and a former social worker she knows (also female) were discussing that with the breast cancer troubles Elizabeth Edwards has been going through, she may not want to have sex and may feel like less than a woman; apparently, this is not uncommon among those fighting breast cancer. They’ve gone so far as to theorize that she may have encouraged her husband to get his business taken care of by someone else. These are woman talking, not me. Such a thing wouldn’t have even crossed my mind as a theory. But it is entirely plausible. We just don’t know.

Finally, though, I am reminded of what Jesus said when the mob dragged before him a woman they had caught in the act of adultery and saying she be stoned to death according to Jewish law and asking what Jesus thought, to try to trip him up and show that he didn’t care about the law. Instead, he said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” (This is all in John 8:3-11, by the way)

Most of us are familiar with that line and that story, and how it tells us that none of us are without stain or sin and none but God can truly judge and condemn anyone fairly and honestly.

But there is another element to it as well. Recall that the mob didn’t bring the man who had been committing adultery with this woman. They let him go free. Also, in the story, you might recall that before Jesus uttered his famous line, he was drawing in the sand with a stick. My father-in-law, in more than one sermon, has theorized that he was drawing words, perhaps something like, “So, where the heck is the man?” Because to my father-in-law, that is probably the only thing that would have truly made everyone disperse; throwing it in their faces that they only wanted to punish half of the adulterous couple.

True, there is a gender reversal when we look at the Bible story, where the woman gets dragged out, and with John Edwards, where the man is the one who gets the spotlight. But I think there is a parallel in that we always want to point fingers, usually at just one of the people, and then declare that a single act or a certain mistake can permanently make someone unworthy or somehow erases all the good they’ve done in the past. And for some reason, we chose adultery as some special way to do this, as if it’s so much worse than lying or greediness or pettiness or lack of general human compassion, things we have overlooked in politicians on both sides of the aisle on a regular basis.

None of us is without sin. All of us can commit the same mistake of adultery (or murder or theft or whatever) as quickly as anyone in the public that we want to vilify. All that is needed are the right circumstances.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t pay a price for deliberate harm they commit or stupid mistakes they make. I’m not even saying we don’t have a right to wonder about them when we do.

But we don’t have a right to judge a person’s entire worth based on a few unflattering snapshots from their life.


5 Responses to “Your Cheating Heart”

  1. August 14, 2008 at 7:35 am

    I have heard speculation that Jesus was writing snippets of information, just enough to let the ringleaders know that he was aware of the secrets and sins they most wanted kept secret. I think we are intended to wonder. As for adultery, you get a deeper understanding of it when you are directly involved. Much deeper. Is fucking someone other than your wife really so much worse than fucking people over? You would have to have experience as both cuckhold and philanderer, while being born again, to know. I don’t think we hold politicians to a higher moral standard. I just think drama and trauma captivate us, and sex sells.

  2. 2 WNG
    August 14, 2008 at 11:50 am

    I’m still trying to figue out how any of this is anyone’s business outside of his family.

  3. 3 Deacon Blue
    August 14, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    Good points from both of you.

    I’m always surprised that these stories get so much traction, even with our sex-and-drama/trauma-obsessed culture. It just doesn’t do anything for me, personally.

  4. August 15, 2008 at 7:04 am

    Deacon Blue: “But we don’t have a right to judge a person’s entire worth based on a few unflattering snapshots from their life.”

    Deacon Blue, I agree with most of what you say here. One act of kindness does not a saint make, nor does one act of evil a devil make.

    And I’m sure that John Edwards self-worth, and public service, cannot be impeached by this one act alone, although it speaks volumes about his character.

    Yet, on pragmatic grounds alone, I would sooner elect you to decide policies that affect us all, than John Edwards.

    To commit adultery is to reveal a great deal about a person (just as committing murder, theft, or a host of other acts that society find repugnant), and I don’t give it a pass simply because of the efforts of others to explain it away as a sudden lapse in judgment, or a moment of weakness.

    For some jobs, a person’s character may not come into play, but I doubt if there are many. If you’re a thief, no bank will hire you. If you’re a drunk, I don’t want you flying my plane, or operating on me (even if you say you’re sober). If you’re a gambler, I don’t want you managing my money. And I could point out other character flaws that would make a person unsuitable to hold certain jobs.

    Therefore, a job that impacts the well-being of a people and a nation should go to those with the highest moral standing. Not because we’re judgmental, but because we’re pragmatic.

    John Edwards’ biggest mistake (to himself and his wife) was that he sought to do his act in secrecy, and compound it with a lie, and deceit. How much better if he had come clean. And if he didn’t wish to come clean because of his wife’s illness, then he should have waited for a more ideal time. After all, she was his wife in good standing for many years. He owed her that.

    To commit adultery in the manner in which he did, he had to do the following, and it will not be an exhaustive list:

    He would have to lie.
    He would have to cover up the lie.
    He would have to violate a trust.
    He would have to violate a contract.
    He would have to place his own self-interest above another.
    He would have to deceive.
    He would have to subject his wife, her family, and his family to controversy, speculation, embarrassment, and public pillory, if his adultery comes to light.
    He would have to risk bringing into the home a venereal disease.
    He would have to spend family time with his paramour.
    He would have to spend family money on his paramour.
    He would have to dismiss the years of intimacy, and commitment he had with his wife.

    Now, I’m not condemning him, nor judging him, just assessing his suitability to make policy decisions that affect Americans, and the general welfare of this nation, where, hopefully, personal considerations are set aside in favor of the common good.

    Given the above review of some of the deep character deficiencies necessary to commit adultery, I would deem John Edwards unfit to hold public office, as either a governor, congressperson, vice-president, or president.

    Given his past missteps, it would not be in our best interest. A character flaw is not easily fixed, and oftentimes require a God intervention, or a lifetime of devotion to the amelioration.

  5. 5 Deacon Blue
    August 15, 2008 at 9:59 am

    First Domino,

    I totally understand your reasoning. But given how many deals and back-room stuff and shady relationships and tit-for-tat politicians do just to get their money to campaign, and endorsement support, and all that these days…well, I guess I wonder why people worry about a single public act of adultery and somehow fail to realize that many (perhaps most) of our politicians are dirty as hell no matter how honorable their INTENTIONS. And so I think we tend to focus on something like adultery, because it’s in our face, and pretend that the non-adulterous politicians are somehow slightly more honorable, when they may in fact have a much deeper and smellier pile of garbage stuffed in the closet with all their skeletons.

    I also notice your example of a bank won’t hire a thief, and you’re right. But many banks won’t hire people with bad credit, either. Nor will many retail stores. And, frankly, some businesses where you don’t handle money at all. Does having bad credit make you a bad person? Not at all. But people use it as a measuring stick unfairly nonetheless.

    You make good, strong points, though, so I’m not dismissing your arguments. Just throwing a few other thoughts out there.

    Frankly, I don’t think Edwards handled the situation as well as he could have. More upfront-ness would have been awfully nice. But we do funny things when we’re caught doing something we ought not be doing, particularly if we haven’t had a long history of doing wrong. For all I know, John Edwards has a while sleazy existence we don’t know about. But it’s also quite possible he is a guy who has mostly tried to do good, made a stupid decision and tried to keep it from overshadowing his life, while guaranteeing in the end that it would anyway.

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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley


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