Dear John Edwards,
We’ve never met. I’m a 33 year old single mother of two. I’ve been studying for the LSAT all day and getting less than desirable scores on my practice tests, so I’ll admit from the outset that I may be blunt, even coarse. I’m too tired now to be anything else.
I realize that it is bad karma for me to judge you at all. Not just bad karma, but a bad idea altogether. I’ve made a myriad of mistakes in my life. I don’t have the answers to the universe. Actually, I don’t have any answers at all. I especially don’t know the private battles that you’ve waged. I haven’t been inside your head or walked in your shoes. I have no idea what sorts or scopes of emotions you have experienced. It isn’t really that I want to judge you, however. I don’t want to judge you. I want to question as a means to understanding. It is my own questions I want to answer, not yours.
I suppose by existing as a public figure, you are susceptible to this imposing of my personal questions upon your personal struggles. I admired you. Some time ago I endorsed your candidacy, wrote blog entries on your qualifications. But in actuality, you could be anyone. You could be Tiger Woods. Tony Parker. Bill Clinton. Prince Charles. The list. The list goes on.
What I really want to know: Was she worth it? Or if I was going to ask Tiger: were they worth it? Even as I ask the question, I’m not sure if I’m asking about people or orgasms or flattering words pressed against ears or texts jumping off cell phone screens. But in any of these cases, I would love to know: Were they worth it?
What was the motivation? I’m dying to know. Was it a need for power? An ego thing—an intense need for approval, flattery, attention? Was it part of an addiction? Was it for no discernable reason at all? Does it even matter?
You see, I guess I am old-fashioned in that I still believe that people who love each other should be true to each other. It’s hard for me to understand what proves difficult about this. Isn’t it possible? I don’t want to hear about the evolutionary baggage that you carry as a man, the instinctual and continual urge you may have to reproduce and guarantee the continuance of the human race (that was millions of years ago, surely you can rise above it) or the pressure involved in being a public figure. I’m sure it presents its challenges, but we all choose our paths and we all have to deal with the effects of those decisions. Some people have to bust concrete all day and can barely feed their families and they find ways to deal with their stress which doesn’t involve hurting and humiliating their significant other.
I guess I am also old-fashioned in that I believe that if you aren’t happy in a particular situation you find yourself in, then you should definitely change something or many things, but change them in the correct order. If you don’t want to be with someone, tell them that and get out. Then move forward and begin again. Sometimes I feel like the world I live in finds these ideas horrifically antiquated. And that makes me sad. I’m not a traditionally religious woman. I don’t think that God will smite me if I hurt others. I don’t believe in any real concept of hell. I do believe that a basic humanity exists in love, kindness and compassion. I do believe that we should have a basic reverence in our interactions with other people. Whenever our actions significantly affect another life we should tread cautiously, thoughtfully, purposefully.
Was it worth it? I have no idea. I’m asking. Maybe Elizabeth yelled at you daily over breakfast and hit you over the head with a frying pan each time you walked in the door and you felt so claustrophobic in your marriage that you had trouble sleeping. How should I know? All I could see was a beautiful, intelligent woman who stood by your side in so many ways. Beautiful children. Something that maybe you would want to see in a tribute video projected on a backyard screen for your 85th birthday party someday. Something worth fighting for. Maybe? I hear stories like yours and I wonder how a moment or even a string of moments could be worth risking something you have been laboring for your whole life.
Why do I care about your life? Why am I spending whatever free time I have at the end of this long day pounding out an imaginary letter to you on my laptop keyboard? Maybe because the media doesn’t let me ignore the list. And maybe because these questions float above me like a trailing cloud. Just as I haven’t lived inside your head, you haven’t lived inside mine. You don’t know the personal sorrows I’ve experienced or the battle wounds that have resulted in my own personal scars. I see Elizabeth and I see that she was one woman. And at the same time, she was every woman. She worked hard for her family, she suffered personal sorrows. She supported her significant other. For every individual, the details vary, but a basic desire remains the same. All of us, male or female, want to know that the person who we labor beside is truly in our corner. On our side of the river. We have to trust. We have to believe in that. We hope, with all of our hearts, that it is possible.
I wish you all the best John Edwards—politician, father, estranged husband. I hope you can find happiness in your life and live out the rest of your days in peace. May Elizabeth rest in peace. Her work will not be forgotten. I hope many find it in their hearts to donate to the Wade Edwards foundation. I also hope many find it in their hearts to treat others as they would like to be treated. A basic humanity that encompasses honesty, trust and compassionate love. I don’t care if it is antiquated. I’m standing by the definitions of what I hope to be able to live and experience.