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Lessons from Rielle Hunter and Elizabeth Edwards

Originally posted on Huffington Post
Expanded essay of “The Elizabeth Edwards Tragedy”

Can there be any doubt that John Edwards isn’t worth all of carnage he’s exacted on Ms. Hunter and the soon-to-be ex Mrs. Edwards? Now we get Rielle Hunter’s side of things, via Lisa DePaulo in GQ. Elizabeth Edwards had her say and then some, while remaining in denial until the end, ruining her life and reputation through her own choices. The National Enquirer now being considered for a Pulitzer Prize, which I hope they get, because traditional and new media collectively failed to see the salient facts in this story, which now includes a report alleging that John Edwards may be indicted. We’ll see if the Enquirer turns out to be right on this as well.

The choices of Mrs. Edwards made long ago doomed her, covering for her husband to keep his presidential hopes alive. Putting her own credibility on the line for something that she had to know would eventually unravel; fighting a physical assault while living a lie. Writing a book to find a pathway through, she forgot that the only way to get out is by accepting and facing the truth; the embarrassment of negotiating a ban of Rielle Hunter’s name on Oprah. John Edwards admitted the affair and continued to lie about the extent of it. The alliance of a child ignored. Mrs. Edwards’ coming completely unglued during the falsely laid presidential campaign now in print for all to see, as her friends rally around her, saying it’s true, but who can blame her? The book from the aide came next, who kept the secret and put his life on the line; the sex tape details, and on and on.

After “Game Change” broke the story on Elizabeth Edwards, followed by friends writing that the behavior depicted was true, there still hasn’t been very much talk about Mrs. Edwards’ culpability in the whole presidential campaign charade and what it says about her own character. Many people are understandably sympathetic towards her, but also give her a pass on her own behavior, because of the horrendous tragedies she’s faced, the unspeakable loss of her son, then the debilitating unfairness of being struck with incurable cancer. The unfairness is choking. Let’s hope she finds peace once she’s divorced, though Ms. Hunter’s article today won’t bring it. And there is still much reckoning for the covering and lying Elizabeth Edwards did for her husband, which cannot be excused even by her incredible challenges, which I so respect and for which I have much sympathy.

See, I watched my mother fight for well over ten years with the worst kind of lymphoma you can imagine. Operation after operation, in the midst of learning how to make a living, with my father’s death revealing she didn’t even know where he kept the checkbook, let alone the state of their finances. When she finally got work, we used to celebrate when she’d get a nickel raise, which came every several months. My mother was a woman who had to learn to make a living in life with no skills, a young daughter of never ending dreams and ambitions to raise, with no road map on how she’d help get it done; the only goal in her heart was for me to fly high.

After one of her last operations, she came out of it with her entire head in a cast, only one eye showing, the surgeon having to break bones to rip the cancer from her body, for the umpteenth time. We worked together, me helping her learn to talk well all over again. But never once in all these torturous years did my mother lose her dignity, her faith, or ever think of taking advantage of someone else, though she and I had very rough times due to other horrific realities we never would face together before she died, but stalked us every day.

I’ve never written about this because it’s wrenching to the point of distraction for me to recall, as her death was as violent as you can imagine, more so than I can retell; the whole thing practically paralyzes me to this day to even recall, as the horror haunts me still, a wrenching choice the difference in saving my own soul. I tell this tale finally to say that there is no excuse for selling out people because of burdens you face. Many others have fought like my mother, who until the end, against all odds, kept her dignity and never acted out in a manner unbecoming of the person she was when she was well. In the end she raised a daughter who remains undaunted through the amazing ride of successes, failures, rises, falls, highs, and backbreaking lows, while facing life faithfully fearless, because of the woman who came before her who gave her a life.

People battle horrific illnesses everyday and never stoop to taking people hostage over it. Let alone letting the actual monster in the maelstrom off the hook.

It’s all the woman’s fault when things you know about and hide end up spiraling out of control. It’s another thing Rielle Hunter and Elizabeth Edwards have in common. They didn’t protect themselves first, putting the man who seduced them both into believing he was worth more, convincing them to put him before their own lives and reputation.

Mrs. Edwards was initially a victim of John’s ego, the realization of what he’d done a moment to escape for her own self-preservation. But somewhere in this mess she decided that keeping John was worth more than keeping her self-respect; and that she could retain love that was long gone. What she did for love is the worst example I’ve seen of an abused wife who can’t let go of her abuser. A tragic tale of ego and self-destruction over which, after the initial betrayal was known, Elizabeth Edwards could have controlled, especially if she’d come clean herself about what the knowledge of Mr. Edwards’ betrayal had done to her and how she’d acted out during the presidential season.

As for Rielle Hunter, there is no doubt she targeted, sought out, and conquered John Edwards, whose ego is so gargantuan that he put its nurturing above all other things, including his country, his supporters, his children and family; so the fact that he didn’t protect his own loyal wife who was fighting terminal cancer should hardly some as a shock.

If only Elizabeth Edwards’ book had been about that; about John Edwards’ lying, depraved duplicity, her own cowardice in refusing to stand up to him, instead of the story she chose to tell, however important. If only Mrs. Edwards would unleash is all about her husband in divorce court she may be vindicated and finally set free; however, there are children involved whose interest someone should champion.

No man is worth one-half the grief of this sorry saga. That Elizabeth Edwards continued to sell her own soul for his affections, which she lost anyway, offers a very public example of what can happen when a woman puts herself behind the man, which in the end gets you nothing; your ego in command leading to your own self-destruction. For once this kind of man knows you’ll do anything for him, you just become his whipping post, but you also end up responsible for the damage done to other people’s lives. Rielle Hunter landed a man who is disgraced, her own part in the story nothing that will be an example for her child once she grows up.

As for John Edwards, at least his daughter with Ms. Hunter will know she had a father; someone who is a completely different man than the one who ran for president, because that person never existed in the first place. The enablers around him protecting his fantasy persona.

Elizabeth Edwards was a primary player in this modern Shakespearean tragedy where no one has been spared, with Rielle Hunter the victor of a man not worth the sacrifices.

TM NOTE: Comments are closed, as parts of this cross-post from Huffington Post have already been discussed.

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