Published February 01, 2010
If there was ever a doubt that we live in a strange, passive-aggressive/bipolar age, President Obama's State of the Union Speech removed all doubt, with his alternating between begging for bi-partisanship and overall niceness followed by dressing down Supreme Court Justices sitting 10-feet away and mocking fellow politicians for holding differing views. But it's not just politicians whose attention spans are so short that they can't recall previous paragraphs in speeches that highlight this phenomenon, it's also revealed in the way that our culture loves our celebrities one moment and pours scorn on them the next in a manner that is completely out of proportion with what they have done.
In the case of John Edwards, that manifests itself in a number of ways: First, if Malcolm Gladwell is right and we are best off going with our first instincts, we should have known the first time we laid eyes on him that he was not what he purported to be, the solution to America's ills, but rather, what our first blink told us: a nice if shallow and callow young man, obsessed with his own looks who got into politics not to do something but to be somebody. But we didn't trust our instincts. Then, when we found out who he really was, we went to the other extreme and today, poor John Edwards has experienced, according to Gallup, the "single biggest slide in public opinion ever recorded for a prominent public figure in consecutive polling."
John Edwards wasn't a god then, and he's not the devil now and we do him-- and ourselves -- no favors when we mistake him for either. And for a culture in which millions of men and women are cheating on their spouses or shacking up with people they're not married to, the feigned outrage about Edwards -- or Tiger Woods for that matter -- is a bit too much. It's especially nauseating when, even as we wag our fingers at Edwards, we lavish book contracts, speaking fees and honor upon Bill Clinton, a slightly smarter, more ruthless version of Edwards, smart enough to hire Betsy Wright to tamp down his own "bimbo eruptions" and more ruthless in dealing with his own extra-marital unplanned pregnancy, having paid, according to his girlfriend at the time Gennifer Flowers, $200 to abort the child their union created.
Edwards is merely the poor man's Bill Clinton -- a cad without the polish, but that shouldn't matter to the rest of us who shouldn't be shocked when men behave as men have been behaving for centuries when our behavior isn't regulated by God and/or women. Our culture will come into some semblance of balance only when we learn to stop worshiping each other one moment, then damning each other then next. And we'll all do well to remember that at some point each of us will need grace and forgiveness and that, as Solzhenitsyn once wrote in "The Gulag Archipelago," "even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil."
Mark Joseph is a producer, author and editor of Bullypulpit.com. He is a regular contributor to the Fox Forum.