Judge Not, that Ye Be Not Judged

So John Edwards has admitted to having an affair two years ago and we’re outraged.

In a poll on HealthCentral’s breast cancer site, 90% believed the affair has destroyed his credibility. Alright, I can understand why women who are surviving breast cancer can be tender about this particular event in light of Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer, but I’m pretty sure a poll of the rest of the country would give about the same numbers. So I dug around some more and found David Bonior, Edwards’ campaign manager for the 2008 presidential bid, quoted as saying "thousands of friends of the senator’s and his supporters have put their faith and confidence in him and he let them down … you can't lie in politics and expect that people's confidence". After I stopped laughing about lying and politics being incompatible (and trust me, it took a while), laughed some more about having thousands of 'friends', all that was in my head was a giant Excuse me?

What on earth does a politician’s private life have to do with his credibility in his job?

Edwards has not let us down - we and he did not engage in a ceremony in which he promised us to forsake all others. He promised us he would do his best to be a good politician and I fail to see how an affair affects that. The requirements for politicians to adhere to a strict code of "family values" - what does that even mean? - is a crock, a crutch and a distraction. It's completely image-based - as long as our politicians appear to be happily married (in public, anyway), for decades, with the perfect spouse and perfect kids, they'll take good care of the country, right? Maybe we should get off our collective arses and actually educate ourselves about the issues and what our politicians are doing about it, instead of worrying about who they're sleeping with. I don't really care whether my politicians are faithful to their spouses or not - I care about their job performance. The number of lovers they take has nothing to do with their job performance (providing, of course, that they keep their mouth shut about their job while they are in bed with said lovers).

Is it the hypocrisy of it? Of course it is, but we’re the ones who have been indoctrinated to insist upon politicians being so saintly as to be inhuman. We're the ones who swallow the line about family values and image being a determinant of job performance. What if a politician said his/her private life was none of the public’s business, that the focus should be on the issues – would they be elected? And isn’t it sad and sort of offensive that the answer is probably no? We get the politicians we deserve.

We are so quick to judge, to pass blame. We so seldom practice compassion. Who among us hasn't done something not perfect when under pressure (in Edwards case, the death of a child and a wife’s diagnosis of cancer, both within a decade, might be termed a wee bit of pressure)? But this isn't about adultery or even defense of adultery - this is about something entirely different. Who among us could stand to have our private lives - our entire private lives - turned inside out and plastered over the front page of newspapers for a public feeding frenzy and lynching party (BYOB!)? I certainly couldn't - behind this innocent exterior luck lies a hotbed of illicit activity. No, not really (unfortunately). But I'm not perfect. Making mistakes is part of living, of being human. And if I am not perfect, why would I expect anyone else to be perfect?

I don't know all the details of this affair and I don't need to. None of us do. From skimming the research that I did to write this, Edwards apparently spoke to his wife about it two years ago and they have come to a resolution within their marriage. Why is it any of our business what these two people do within that marriage? Do you think I have the right to have an opinion about your private life? No? I’m with you. And you don't have a right to have an opinion about mine. It is not our job to judge another person's actions, unless the actions are criminal. That means that if the man's wife has decided to move on, we need to shut up.

As for Edwards? Judge him on what's relevant: how he does his job.

Rant over. Soapbox's yours.

Comments