Oprah wanted to know whether she still loved her husband. The question made for great television, but it was the kind of question that only a busybody could love.
Elizabeth Edwards answered politely that it was a complicated issue. A nice way to avoid answering the question without offending the questioner.
Now, Maureen Dowd has gone high concept and has gotten to the heart of the issue: "The really complicated question is what she hopes to gain from this book." Link here.
Dowd's answer is unassailable. She sees Mrs. Edwards, whom she dubs Saint Elizabeth, getting in a few last licks by publicly flogging her husband. She calls the book: "just a gratuitous peek into their lives, and one that exposes her kids, by peddling more dregs about their personal family life...."
Revenge is neither sweet nor cheap; it is often ugly and very expensive.
Many people, among them your intrepid blogger, have questioned the value of the sport of exhibitionism-via-memoir. (To say nothing of the new practice of exhibitionism-via-text message.)Dowd's voice adds seriousness to the charge.
Dowd is challenging us to stop making a virtue of indiscretion. Even when it is supposed to be open and honest and pretends to be helping others.
There is no virtue when a woman of dignity and decorum joins the chorus of dimwitted celebrities who gain fame and fortune by violating the boundaries of public decency.
Dowd suggests that when it comes to infidelity, indiscretion adds insult to injury. It matters that men like John Edwards and Bill Clinton choose paramours who are unlikely to be able to keep a secret: "Like Monica and Gennifer before her Rielle was not a discreet choice."
When it comes to marriage we live in an imperfect world. Perhaps we are too optimistic when we expect lifelong fidelity. But we must still expect our mates to show some respect.
If I had to guess, I would say that more marriages are doomed by indiscretion and public humiliation than by random infidelities.
Dowd's larger point deserves some emphasis. However vile John Edwards' behavior, payback does not heal the wounds. Especially when the enacted revenge makes Saint Elizabeth look bad and harms her family.