Monday, April 2, 2007

Kudos to Elizabeth Edwards; Thumbs Down to Critics

Early last week, Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards stood beside his wife and announced that the deadly specter of cancer had returned to Elizabeth Edwards’ life.

Can you imagine? Can you just imagine being compelled to share such a moment of unimaginable personal challenge with a nation so lately devoid of common courtesy and compassion?

What is wrong with the American public these days? Do we feel entitled to know the dirtiest details of our next-door neighbors’ lives? Of course we want to know, in a sneaky, snoopy way. But we also know in our hearts that poking our noses into our neighbors’ personal business is an unwelcome intrusion, not to mention just plain rude. So why is it that we throw etiquette to the four winds when it comes to our public figures?

People all over the country have felt obliged to comment on the Edwards’ decision to continue the campaign. As if, because the couple has dared to enter the American political arena, every citizen has the right to scrutinize the most minute aspect of their personal lives.

Our Saturday newspaper published a letter written by a Texas woman who apparently feels entitled to an opinion because her own husband had battled cancer for 10 years. She felt that he had lived as long as he had because they "teamed up" against the cancer; and Elizabeth and John Edwards owed it to their youngest children to put all their energy into squeezing every possible hour of life from her compromised body.

And then there was the Katie Couric interview on 60 Minutes. Hard to believe that Couric, who herself lost a husband to cancer, would lend her journalistic credentials to such a tabloid-esque grilling of a couple for whom she should have had a particular personal affinity. I didn’t watch the interview, but I did research it after hearing the controversy it caused.

It appears to me that Elizabeth and John Edwards acquitted themselves quite impressively during that conversation:

Elizabeth Edwards:
"You know, you really have two choices here. I mean, either you push forward with the things that you were doing yesterday or you start dying. That seems to be your only two choices. If I had given up everything that my life was about – first of all, I'd let cancer win before it needed to. You know, maybe eventually it will win. But I'd let it win before I needed to.

And I'd just basically start dying. I don't want to do that. I want to live. And I want to do the work that I want next year to look like last year and... and the year after that and the year after that. And the only way to do that is to say I'm going to keep on with my life."

John Edwards:
"We don't understate or misunderstand the seriousness of this. I mean, this could kill her, and we know it. And what we won't choose to do is... we choose to live our lives fully, and with strength and optimism.

We get to make that choice. And that's what we choose." (Emphasis mine.)

Many of us have watched a loved one die of cancer. And in the end, we take up whatever personal lessons the experience has taught us, and go on with our lives. A little sadder, a little emptier…hopefully a little stronger and with a greater store of compassion for anyone forced to walk that same road.

Someone who has not gone through that most exquisite pain has no right whatsoever to voice on opinion on how other human beings must wage that debilitating battle. But someone who has gone through it should absolutely know better. Katie Couric—and anyone else who would take it upon themselves to weigh in on this very private decision shared under duress with a voyeuristic nation by a very public couple—shame on you.


  1. I've never been a Katie Couric fan.  Insofar as I'm concerned, she is terminally perky.  I lost a sister at age 38 and my mom at age 75 from breast cancer.  I agree with you that you'd think, once someone has undergone such a has Couric...that she'd know better.  She is yet another reason that I prefer to read the "news" these days.

    Good post.


  2. I admire the Edwards for the courage of their decision. If I were in their shoes, I don't know what choice I'd make, but that doesn't matter.  I found an Oscar Wilde quote recently that said something along the lines of selfishness isn't living how you you want to, it's making other people live like you want to.  I think he's on target.  I also wonder if we have all gotten so insecure that when someone makes a decision about a problem that is different than what we would have done, we feel like our life has been invalidated.  Selfishness and insecurity are large parts of this pressure to conform, and that pressure to conform is what the Edwards are facing.

  3. I missed the interview too. So I really cant comment on anything. But, I'll stop to say hi. :-)

  4. I missed the interview as well.  Although I believe we, as a nation, are entitled to know that our President may not be in office due to a family crisis, it really is not our business to know about every personal detail of a candidates life.  Unless of course, they've got a record a mile long.  

    Nicely written.

  5. I've never seen Katie Couric in action. Have no desire to. The decision was the Edwards' to make, not anyone elses. I'd love to see him get elected twice and have her there by her side the whole time. If not, then perhaps her greatest legacy is her strength. To live life to the fullest and follow your dreams no matter where it takes you.