Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Mad Libs Method

Let's look once more at the media-manufactured "controversy" over John and Elizabeth Edwards' decision to continue with the campaign.

Immediately following the announcement, there was much goodwill and sympathy. As there should have been. In the middle of their personal nightmare, Senator and Mrs. Edwards gave us a gift. They showed us that even in the toxic media landscape, it was possible to offer love, dignity, strength and sacrifice to us, like some beautiful rose

... and Rush Limbaugh and Katie Couric ground the rose up and used it to fertilize a hideous, stinking titan arum. (If you don't know what a titan arum is, imagine Rush Limbaugh and Katie Couric having sex. Now imagine a plant that smells like that mattress.)

Now a lot of people are throwing around words like
heartless and stupid and callous and selfish and ambitious and doormat and grasping and subservient and many even worse. To hear some pundits, you would think it was time to call Child Protective Services and have the children taken out of the home. How could they keep on campaigning?? What kind of people are these Edwardses... if that is their name? Continuing a presidential campaign instead of giving it up?

I was baffled, I have to admit. I wasn't sure what people thought they
should do.

Should he quit everything, she quits everything, they pull the kids out of school, and they all sit in the living room facing each other until she dies?

Maybe people think they could do stuff together, family stuff. They could, for instance, all take up speed-dialing for Sanjaya. (Hey, unlike us, a dying person doesn't have to live with the consequences.)

Or maybe the right wing wanted Edwards to start sleeping around, and then one day walk into his wife's hospital room with divorce papers. The Gingrich Gambit. They seem to like that.

Nah... I don't think it's in Edwards' wheelhouse. Besides, I didn't understand why there was a discussion at all. I tried, I really did.

Whenever I'm wrestling with an issue or a decision, there's a method I always use to sort it out in my mind. I've hinted at it a few times in past posts without explaining it, so here it is, for what it's worth: I call it the Mad Libs Method.

All I do is replace a word or phrase in the topic with another word or phrase, and see how that changes my perspective. And I keep doing that until I zero in on a logical conclusion. Hey, it's not exactly Socrates, but it works for me.

It's fun
and educational, trust me, and it always works... but I'll write more about it at some future date. Meanwhile, back to Senator Edwards. Here's a passage from the Couric interview:

KC: Some people watching this would say, "I would put my family first always, and my job second." And you're doing the exact opposite. You're putting your work first, and your family second.

JE: But this is not work. Work is what I did as a lawyer. This is service. This is... this is a country that I love – both of us love, as much as we love our lives.

KC: I guess some people would say that there's some middle ground. You don't have to necessarily stay at home and feel sorry for yourself, and do nothing. But, if given a finite – a possibly finite period of time on the planet – being on the campaign trail, away from my children, a lot of time, and sort of pursuing this goal, is not, necessarily, what I'd do.


Let's replace the words "being on the campaign trail" with "following the Police on tour."

Makes the Senator a bit of a prick, it's true... but that's no good, because then what he said before wouldn't make sense. We need a phrase that would still work with the others. Hmmm...

Service... country... I got it!

What about, "enlisting to fight in Iraq"?

Now we're getting somewhere.

If Couric were interviewing a man who was going to serve in Iraq... who was leaving his children and his stricken wife behind because they had all decided he could serve his country better in uniform, would
anyone be okay with her "grilling" him about selfishness and priorities?

lionize people who join the military, and we glorify the spouses who wait at home with infants and toddlers. They're "extraordinary" and "brave" and "sacrifice" for "honor"... (and I agree, they are!)

No one speaks of our military's"selfish ambition" or refers to Gold Star families as"doormats." I saw a glowing profile of a couple on
Today a month or so ago. These people were married, had little babies... and both of them were going to Iraq. BOTH!

Without diminishing my gratitude for their service, can I at least get you to agree that's an example of "putting work first and family second"?

But people think of the military as "service" and not "work."

But they also serve who stay and run.

If Senator Edwards feels our nation is in crisis, and he and his wife deeply believe that he
can make this country a profoundly better place, then isn't his decision a generous act of public service? As much as joining the Army is?

Besides, shouldn't country
always come before family? Isn't that exactly why some are willing to leave their loved ones behind and go fight in some godforsaken desert?

Maybe that's an old-fashioned idea: Contrast the hero of
Casablanca with the hero of The English Patient, and you'll see just how far we've fallen. It seems to be a movie trend. Used to be the heroes of movies went to war and gave up everything they loved for their country. Now they join the army, but desert if they get word their girlfriend is in trouble. (Or are like the movie suburban Dad, who at the end decides to blow off the big presentation at work, jeopardizing the jobs of a hundred fellow employees, because he owes it to his son to go to some soccer game.)

In the first
Spiderman movie, when the weighty duties of being Spidey outweighed true love, audiences were disgruntled. Giving up a girl to save the world? Seems unAmerican.

Our military is extraordinary... but
non-soldiers make choices out of a sense of responsibility and patriotism, too. Every day. Some of them put their lives on the line just as surely as soldiers do.

Cops and firefighters get car magnets, it's true. But when's the last time you saw a ribbon honoring the Bomb Squad?

Or the FBI? Treasury or ATF agents? Or people who work in biosafety labs, handling Ebola? Or teachers or sanitation workers or city exterminators or gas company or nuclear power plant employees or all the other people who use their expertise in dangerous situations because
it's the right thing to do and we need them?

What about someone who makes himself the target of death threats, opposition research, Swift Boat smear campaigns, character assassination and of being called a "faggot"... all because he and his wife see injustice and poverty in our country and wanto do something. All because they think he can make a difference.

Because they see government service as a remedy for the people, not a way to funnel cash to your cronies so they'll put you on their Boards of Directors after you leave office.

People like Katie and Rush can belittle people like Senator Edwards (and Michael J. Fox) because they have no respect for selflessness. They don't even recognize it when they see it. They think the whole world begins and ends at their lawns or their car doors or their medication bottles.

Thank God there are people who are better than that. Like our troops... and like Senator and Mrs. Edwards.


norm said...

I figure this is one of those personal decisions which most people would not be comfortable questioning.
To criticize something like this implies the people involved haven't thought things through clearly enough and they need someone with a fresh perspective to point out the glaring error of their ways before they do something they'll regret.
This would, of course, be done out of selfless concern for those involved by someone like a family member, their pastor or...Katie Couric.

norm said...

Another thing that bugs me is the assumption that there's only one way to do a thing.
You can do what Edwards is doing, with compassion and sensitivity, involving the family in the decision.
Or you can ditch your dying wife like an asshole.
It's not that running for President is "right" or "wrong" in this's just how it's done.

Michael Markowitz said...

I'll go one step further: If a candidate were to stop campaigning under these circumstances, I'd know he/she was not the right person for the job to begin with. To be President you must have a vision and a passion and a sense of duty.

By contrast, imagine that George W. Bush was on "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire" in 1999 and his million dollar question was, "Why do you want to be President?"

He would need all three of his lifelines.

Especially the "Phone a Friend [of my daddy's]"

peeky said...

Criticism of the Edwards is pathetic and reaching. Outside of committing murder, I don't think any Democrat needs to be scrutinized about anything ever again. Nothing they could possibly do will ever be as selfish and destructive as what we've endured the last few years. Importantly, I also hope that Katie Couric continues wearing metallic lipstick and white jackets until she disappears into insignificance, which I hope will be tomorrow or the next day.