Saturday, December 11, 2010

About John & Elizabeth and John & Elizabeth and Being a Hero

Such an unlikely collision of similarity and diversity – all at once.
I’m tired of hearing the standard caveat when John McCain is introduced … that he’s some indisputable hero. He’s not. He may have behaved heroically once, while being psychotically tortured as a prisoner of war, but that’s all. Has he conducted himself in a manner since then that even approaches a description of “hero”? No. His modern political life and description of his personal conduct reverts back to another word – bully. Watch video of him as he’s confronted with the irrefutable fact that the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy has caused hundreds of fine officers to be tossed out of the military on account of their status (not for conduct, for status) and you’ll see a belligerent, repetitive, stubborn son-of-a-bitch insisting that “it's not the policy,it's not the policy,it's not the policy,.” No matter. The policy doesthat and he knows it.

Contrast this with Elizabeth Smart, who (like McCain) was a kidnapping victim. She, too, was psychotically tortured; abuse of her body and her mind is now public record. There may be, in fact, much more similarity in her time of captivity and that of Sen. McCain than has ever been publically acknowledged. But Elizabeth has shown nothing but courage since her rescue, bravely facing her abuser in court and addressing the public after the trial to tell other victims that they are not alone. You can go on, she said. You can live your life – it belongs to you, not your attacker. She has demonstrated the mature presence of mind that is credited for her survival and eventual escape from captivity and torture.
As a Senator, McCain has failed to stand up for veterans (yes, those closeted gay solders), insulted the intelligence of every military leader on the topic of DADT, looking much like he is on the brink of a tantrum or threatening to hold his breath until he gets his way … his homophobic way. What a shame and what an incredibly lucky thing that we kept this guy away from the Situation Room.

Then we have John & Elizabeth Edwards – a collision of human weakness and exceptional strength. Let’s be gentle … John simply lost his way. He may have behaved heroically once or twice – fighting like a pit bull for his clients and winning them millions – but when temptation came knocking, he rolled over, then lied and lied about it. He’s human. People lie to cover their mistakes in judgment. It’s not fair to call it natural, but it’s fair to call in understandable. Unfortunately, he forged ahead in denying his paternity of an out-of-wedlock child, likely because he wanted to preserve the possibility of being a candidate for the Obama administration’s VP or attorney general slot. What a shame. That was an opportunity to step forward and own his mistake. Instead, he looked around himself and said “Who, me? Naw, that’s tabloid trash …”

For Elizabeth Edwards, there were some bad decisions, too. Let’s be real (she’d insist). She, too, concealed her husband’s failings in nudging him to continue his campaign after learning her cancer had returned. She knew he’d been unfaithful and thought they could control (keep quiet) that information. But the campaign decisions aside, her story is all about what she did when confronted with irrefutable facts – another woman’s baby, paternity results, a continuing deception and oh, yes, the cancer. She took charge, made real-world assessments and bold choices. She spoke of the other woman’s child and said that her children needed to have a relationship with her … they were family, she said, they have the same father. The child, after all, was innocent in all this. They’d work it all out, she told a stunned Oprah.

And that’s the other part – telling Oprah. She not only had to face all this, she did it under an amount of public scrutiny that’s pretty rare for a private citizen. She understood the meaning of this outreach and not being overtaken by the grief of losing something dear – your son, you husband, your health, your privacy. She, like Elizabeth Smart, owned her survival and would tell her own story. She lived inside its organic value – to her. She knew that this pain and the scar tissue that would form from these injuries are what made her Elizabeth and that choosing to give up any part of it would make her less than what she was – a fully realized human being – the genuine article.

That is heroic.