What is Resilience?
The national spotlight is intoxicating. No matter the circumstances, once someone experiences the attention, he or she never seems to want to relinquish it. This past week we have seen three national stories become the focus of tabloid fodder once again and the people at the center of these stories never seem to go away. The pull of national attention is that strong and we seem to contribute as voyeurs. I admit. I am guilty.
I watched Elizabeth Edwards promoting her new book, "Resilience," at the expense of her family, especially her children whose names keep cropping up in the interviews. I saw snippets of Bristol Palin holding her baby and sitting next to her father espousing the importance of abstaining from sex before marriage. Oh, do tell us Bristol. And I watched Kate Gosselin of the realty show "Jon and Kate Plus Eight," hawk her new book, "Eight Little Faces," about her sextuplets and twins that complete her happy family. The back story here is that hubby Jon allegedly had an affair, which he denies, but doesn't deny that the cameras caught him out with another young woman.
Do we care? Well, some of us keep watching; don't we?
Palin and Gosselin don't bother me as much as Elizabeth Edwards' media tour, which continues with a scheduled appearance on "The View" Tuesday, May 19. Although Edwards told Matt Lauer of the "Today" show Monday that her book about resilience was already in the works before she learned of her husband's affair, the question is why did she think to continue with the book project and to go on a national book tour that only continues to bring up questions?
When did she find out about her husband's affair?
Why did she continue to campaign for her husband for president?
Why does she continue to live with her husband?
Does she love her husband?
If she finds out her husband is the father of his lover's child, what will she do then?
How sad to watch the body language as Elizabeth taps or wrings her hands when she talks. Maybe she is trying to shake off the remnants of the stains on her marriage. Maybe she should take up knitting.
Elizabeth says originally she thought her husband's involvement was only a one-night stand and therefore she continued to campaign for him. Well, how does she explain that the "other woman," Rielle Hunter, continued to follow John Edwards around with her video camera making the videos that she convinced Edwards to hire her for? Obviously he thought that was a good idea to keep her close by. As Elizabeth campaigned for her husband, Hunter continued to videotape John.
Why does Elizabeth allow herself to be in the spotlight continually answering questions about the affair when she has three children; daughters 27 and 11 and a boy 9?
Also, why does she continue to endure the anguish when she has a life and death battle fighting bone cancer that has now spread to her thigh bone, which she admitted to Lauer.
If one listens closely to these interviews about "resilience," -- a topic she hardly addresses, one really hears the voice of a woman still reeling from learning that her husband made love to another woman and may have fathered the woman's child. This, when she told Lauer that "loyalty" was the one virtue she expected from her husband when they first got married because she said she had witnessed the pain her mother had gone through when Elizabeth's father had an affair.
Elizabeth is angry and well she should be but why show it on the national stage. If you listen closely you can hear Elizabeth shouting out her disdain for Hunter. In her interview, Edwards said she was shocked by the way women treat other women, in this case, by having an affair with another woman's husband. She also called Hunter's actions "pathetic" and noted she should build her own life rather than take from the lives of others who had worked for what they had built as a family.
While Elizabeth sat for the interview with Lauer, she said her husband was in San Salvador doing the good work helping others for which he has built his reputation. John Edwards told Oprah during Elizabeth's interview with the talk show host, that he had no problems with the book or Elizabeth's writing the book. It was something that she wanted to do and he respected her decision.
Incidentally, in addition to Elizabeth's cancer, the couple had also endured the death of their son Wade in a car accident at age 16 more than a dozen years ago.
I am the first to admit that writing is a catharsis, but in the Edwards case, writing for a national audience can bring more pain for the entire family to endure. Does talking about the affair help her marriage now? Or, is this Elizabeth's subtle way of getting back at her husband? Scuttlebutt is that Hunter now wants a DNA test to determine the baby's father, something she had said she did not want to do.
As ethicist Randy Cohen blogged for the New York Times online Tuesday:
"How much more inspiring -- for her kids, for other women, for Oprah -- if she had responded more like Veronica Lario, wife of Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. When confronted with his escapades, Lario mocked and derided him and demanded a divorce. 'The impudence and shamelessness of power offends the credibility of all [women], damages women in general and especially those who have always struggled to defend their rights,' she said, providing yet another example of the superiority of Italian life. They eat better than we do, dress better and cope better with philandering; look at the plots of all those operas," Cohen writes.
It is interesting that tabloid journalism this week has shone the spotlight on sex and relationships at three stages in life; the teens, thirty something married people and late middle-aged married people. Maybe this shows that lust is very powerful. It's a little like the lure of the national spotlight.
Rita Papazian is a freelance writer who has covered Norwalk extensively. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.