Friday, March 23, 2007

The Courageous Edwards

We all knew the news would not be good when Democratic candidate for the presidency John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth said they would hold a press conference at noon yesterday. The rumors started on Tuesday when John Edwards cut short his trip in Iowa to fly back to North Carolina in a charter plane. Elizabeth Edwards had a bout of breast cancer in 2004, which had resulted in a clean bill of health from her doctors. John Edwards had said his bid for the presidency in 2008 depended on his wife’s continued good health. And the news yesterday was bad, as we knew it would be. Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer has returned in an “incureable but treatable” form. Along with the assumption that Elizabeth’s health was once again in jeopardy, many of John Edwards supporters also assumed he would drop out of the race for the presidency. But there was good news coming out of yesterday’s press conference. Elizabeth Edwards has insisted her husband stay in the race. And yes, all of the adjectives about the John/Elizabeth Edwards team are correct. They are courageous, they are strong, she is plucky, he is supportive, and they are fighters. God knows, they’ve had to be all of the above. The Edwards’ married life has not been easy. A son was killed in an auto accident. After deciding to undergo horrific post-menopause medical treatments so that she could bear two more children, Elizabeth contracted cancer. John Edwards was John Kerry’s running mate in the 2004 election and they lost the election. Had they won, the history of the world would have changed. But the latest decision to soldier on even though Elizabeth will be undergoing more cancer treatments is as much about her career as it is about being strong in the face of adversity. It seems very clear, at least to me, that Elizabeth Edwards is John Edwards partner in his political career. And she cannot sit back and watch from the sidelines. They are not just husband and wife, but they are a business team. There are those who will insist on placing this latest episode in the Edwards’ life in the familiar territory of a sentimental and tearful Oprah Winfrey show where fighting physical infirmities is equated with being indomitably positive, life-affirming and perky, and with being icons of cornball religiosity, And in fact, the life of John and Elizabeth Edwards may be all of that. But it’s more. And being more, it’s complicated. The Edwards’ have no life unless they work together in the family business. And the family business is politics. Rush Limbaugh has suggested that the Edwards team made “political” use of their press conference yesterday. In the sense that anything the Edwards do is about politics, Limbaugh is not wrong. The Edwards life is politics. And they will live and die in that life. A successful writer will tell you he/she has to write. Dancers “gotta dance”, an actor needs to be on-stage or on-camera or life is not worth living. Elizabeth Edwards and John Edwards are simply doing what they want to do and must do. But more importantly, they are doing what they have to do or they would cease to be. I’m all for giving the Edwards team all the kudos they are worthy of having. But let’s stop the sappy sentimental hand-wringing schmaltz and let them get on with their lives in politics. They need it and we need them.

1 comment:

Barry Schwartz said...

There’s also that if you are talking about a long-term ‘living with’ cancer then, though dealing with the cancer is very difficult, if you stop living your life then you can find yourself doing that for many years.

Too bad about malignant tumors in the bones, that can be very painful.