Our VoiceNews & Politics

Should We Care When Politicians Cheat?

Jill Garvey • Aug 19, 2008

“Screwed, On par, Sad, Disappointed, Typical, Idiot” - these were the responses from young women when I asked them to tell me the first thing that came to mind when I said ‘Edward’s Affair’. One woman struggled for a minute and finally said “indifferent”. I found it interesting that the one person who didn’t follow my instructions and instead took a moment to reflect, evoked a vastly different response from the rest.

When I first heard of the controversy I couldn’t help feeling annoyed. ‘Do all of them have to turn out to be sleazeballs?’ I thought. I imagined the humiliation of his wife and children and wondered about his future in politics.

I didn’t think much about my emotional response to a public figure’s falling, that is until someone snapped me back to reality by asking what I thought about Russia’s invasion of Georgia. Sadly, I didn’t even know about it. Part of that was my fault for not seeking out information about what was really happening in the world and part of it was the shameful attention mainstream media was paying to the scandal. Some journalists took their sniping commentary to a point that indicated they felt personally betrayed by John Edwards (see Maureen Dowd’s op-ed in the NY Times).

Right now I could launch into something about politicians being humans too. Instead I want to discuss the benefits of not caring. It sounds awful, but it serves a purpose in preserving relationships; after all extramarital affairs are not exactly rare. Most adults have dealt with betrayal in relationships. Most of us also like to think that character has something to do with being well-liked and successful at our jobs.

So why don’t we condemn our co-workers and friends when we know they’ve lied or cheated on their loved ones? Because it’s none of our business, and probably most honestly we’d like to avoid being condemned ourselves.

We can vilify Edward’s if we want and he’ll probably suffer for it, but will it solve anything? Will it send a message to the other narcissistic men out there who think they can do anything and get away with it? Probably not. We choose our partners for all kinds of reasons, only some of which can be applied to choosing our leaders.

I love the idea of a leader who I feel is compassionate and loyal and just…but I will never know a world leader personally, so I’ll settle for one who governs in a manner that furthers the political positions I care about. And try to remember that the suffering of one man, no matter how powerful, never outweighs the suffering of the masses.

*John Edwards image gratefully borrowed from Llima’s photostream on flickr.com/creativecommons

*Image of Russian tank in Georgia gratefully borrowed from Hemingway242’s photostream on flickr.com/creativecommons

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