The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘marriage’

WHO NEEDS REALITY TV?

With the twists and turns coming out of the John Edwards trial in North Carolina, this is real life stuff that makes reality television look dull and boring.

The former Senator and contender for the Democratic Primary nomination as President of the United States in 2008 is still awaiting a verdict from a jury of his peers over the question of misappropriation of funds for use in his unsuccessful campaign.  As you may recall, he was the Vice-Presidential nominee of his party in the 2004 election.

The following comes from “The Daily Beast” – an internet news source:

“Peculiar behavior from some jury members has commanded special attention. The eight-man, four-woman panel sits in an elevated jury box on the right side of the courtroom. The four alternates—one man and three bubbly young women—are escorted daily to their seats on the left side of the expansive room, and are measurably more upbeat. On Thursday, as the happy-faced alternates bounced into their seats, each was wearing a bright yellow shirt. A curious coincidence? One, a pretty 20-something pharmacist, was seen smiling broadly in the direction of the defense table.”

“On Friday, the alternates’ shirts were once again in sync, this time a bright red. The brunette pharmacist’s form-fitting top covered only one shoulder, and again she seemed to be smiling directly at John Edwards. Then, as the main jury was brought into the room, whispers broke out in the gallery when two of the jurors were spotted also wearing red. Juror No. 7 seemed to be smiling over at the alternates. Reporters were left to wonder whether it was some sort of signal, perhaps, or a sign of solidarity. Even John Edwards had ditched the green tie he’d worn on each of the previous three days of trial in favor of —you guessed it— a red tie. It was certainly distracting, and Judge Eagles had to have noticed.”

“There was a surprise twist at the end of Friday’s session when Eagles suddenly announced she had “a juror matter to discuss” with the attorneys and ordered the room emptied of media and the public. Thirty-five minutes later all parties filed back in and a much more subdued group of alternates took their seats as did the 12 regular jurors. The panelists were given the usual warning by the judge not to discuss the case with anyone or read or watch any media reports about it. But Judge Eagles added an extra admonishment at this time: “As you walk back to your cars you should not talk about the case in small groups.” No further explanation was given, and spectators left wondering what coordinated color—if any—the jurors might choose to wear when deliberations resume.”

Apparently Judge Eagles has conducted this case in a very fair-handed manner and the fact that she was sufficiently concerned about possible inappropriate conversations among the jurors should be sobering to all of us who believe in our judicial system.  But as disturbing as this is, it is minor compared to another point that “The Daily Beast” brings out in its coverage of this story.  That speaks directly to the character of the man who, if circumstances had been different, might have been the President of the United States.

At the center of this case is the question of whether Senator Edwards accepted donations from Mrs. Rachael “Bunny” Mellon to hide from his wife, who was dying of cancer, the fact that he was having an affair – or were those funds actually being used to fund his campaign in violation of Federal election law.

The article continues:

“…The Daily Beast asked graphologist Sheila Kurtz to examine one particularly memorable piece of evidence: exhibit 912.2 (PDF), a handwritten note on a personalized stationary card from John Edwards to Mrs. Rachel “Bunny” Mellon—one of two sources of funds at the center of the case—thanking the patroness for her hospitality. The corresponding envelope is dated Dec. 7, 2005. The handwriting on the short note is a combination of odd angled block letters and an unreadable signature.

“Kurtz, the director and president of Graphology Consulting Group, has analyzed samples of Edwards’s handwriting in the past, and provided a written evaluation of what she called Edwards’s “motley script.”

“If ever there was a handwriting that sets off alarm bells and sirens, it is the creepy penmanship of former senator John Edwards,” Kurtz wrote. “The most blatant characteristic of the writing is that it slants every which way, without any rhyme or reason whatsoever. There is no consistency, and there is no balance. These are the warning signals of an off-kilter and erratic mind that is floundering without a compass.”

“Even a layman can see the unconnected letters and the strange angles of the note.”

“There are tent-like structures (such as in the word “had” in the first sentence and in the word “forward” as last word on fourth line down) that signal a devoted stubbornness,” Kurtz wrote. “He will cling to a position he may know is dead wrong, until the last dog is hung.”

“For the jury, of course, Edwards’s stubbornness to continue his illicit affair with a staff videographer named Rielle Hunter, even after several loyal staffers and his wife demanded he stop, was well established during this month long trial.”

“Kurtz and her staff first analyzed Edwards’s writing four years ago as he was vying for the Democratic presidential nomination. “I and my colleagues knew immediately that we were examining a handwriting whose writer we wouldn’t recommend for a midnight-to-eight security job at an empty warehouse,” Kurtz recalls. “The handwriting clearly belonged to an unstable, conniving, furtive, shallow creep.”

That final paragraph and particularly the last sentence really sent chills up my spine.  In fairness, to Senator Edwards, I don’t know Ms. Kurtz and there might be other graphologists whose interpretation of his handwriting might differ from hers.  Nor do I know if she has a personal agenda regarding the Senator.  However, the Senator himself might have provided some substantiation for her analysis in the behavior he exhibited in his personal life and marriage.

With the jury set to resume deliberations the day after Memorial Day, I will turn off reality television and stay tuned to the Edwards trial.  It promises to be far more intriguing.

And if I have learned anything from all this it is that all my communications in the future will be via email.  (I can only wonder what deep and hidden secrets my handwriting might reveal about me).

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ON CHILDREN AND DIVORCE

My godmother who was part of New York’s elite “upper crust” introduced me to many things.  One of those was opera, another Broadway shows and the third was how people in “polite society” referred to each other.

She explained that if Mr. Simpson-Bowles were married, his wife was introduced as Mrs. Simpson-Bowles.  If, however, that relationship had not worked out and he remarried, this wife was introduced as “the second Mrs. Simpson-Bowles.”  Alas, that relationship did not last and for a third time he married.  This wife was introduced as “the current Mrs. Simpson-Bowles.”

In the 1950’s and 1960’s in America divorce happened – but at a much less frequent pace than is the case today.  For the ordinary individual being married multiple times was the exception rather than the rule – except for those stars in Hollywood who seemed to exchange spouses with the frequency that they changed their wardrobes for the next scene in a movie.

Of course, with marriage frequently comes the side-benefit of children.  And when two people divorce there is an impact and implication not only for how they will continue their lives but for their offspring as well.  I know because when I was eight years old my parents were divorced.

I am pleased to say that the cause of their separation was not due to something that would then have been scandalous and lurid such as either of them having a sexual relationship outside their marriage.  They simply had differences and disagreements which they couldn’t resolve.

Although they tried to shield me from hearing these arguments, that was difficult considering the small size of our apartment.  I knew something was wrong and I wanted it to stop.  I wanted us to return to the happy, loving and supportive little family that I knew and with which I felt secure.  But it didn’t.

One day mom explained that she was going to take a small trip – to Mexico.  The purpose was to obtain a divorce from dad.  I didn’t quite understand what that word meant – but on her return home it became clear what it was.  It meant that dad wasn’t going to live with us anymore and that I would only get to spend time with him every other weekend.  I didn’t like that idea – but I had no say in the matter.

Obviously this decision had an effect on the way that my parents continued their lives.  But the greatest impact fell on me.  I rapidly went from being at the head of the class and nosedived academically until I was near the bottom.  My teacher, Mrs. Snell expressed her concern in several conferences and a number of written notes.  She could see that I was languishing and depressed.

Fortunately, my parents both cared enough about me to discuss my situation with each other.  This resulted in their going out to dinner on many occasions – but the big breakthrough came when dad was invited for supper one night.  After a year apart, they decided that they were going to try again.  And on June 14th, mom, dad, grandma, my aunt, her two children and I attended a service at The Church of the Transfiguration (better known in New York as “The Little Church Around the Corner”) where they again took their vows.  They remained married until dad passed away.

Perhaps it is co-incidence, but after my parents got back together and we were again the family unit that I had known, my schoolwork improved almost immediately and I again held my place at the head of the class.  I’ll let you be the judge for why I made that academic transformation.  My entire attitude changed as I went from a state of depression to again feeling good about life and the world.

I realize that in today’s world the idea of constancy and commitment are considered old-fashioned.  I know that when my parents decided on getting divorced, they both felt that somehow they had failed themselves and each other.  They had a rather old-fashioned way of looking at things and were disappointed that they had compromised their personal values.  But it is probably the fact that they knew what the “right thing to do” was that enabled them to try to heal the wounds they both had incurred – together with their love and concern for me.

My parents were people who had rock solid values and, because they were humans, failed for a period of time to live up to them.  But they worked hard to overcome their personal frailties and see the more important and bigger picture.  I guess, if you think about it, it’s only people who have a value system who can be failures.  Those of us for whom “anything goes” will always be able to say that we followed our moral precepts – as non-existent as those may be.

I cannot say with certainty how different my life might have been had my parents not made their decision to come back together.  In that one short year that they were apart, I was already on the path to academic mediocrity.  Perhaps I might not have finished high school or gone on to college.  Perhaps I might have become what we referred to at the time as a “JD” – a juvenile delinquent.  Actually, I am certain that I would not be the person I am today.

Today, divorce occurs only slightly less frequently than marriage.  Single parent homes are no longer an exception.  Our educational drop out rate is staggering.  The number of teen unwed mothers – or for that matter – unwed mothers of any age is soaring.  We clearly have abandoned the “old-fashioned” way of doing things – and that change has had a profound influence at every level of society.

Those old-fashioned values were good enough to allow America to become the single most important economic dynamo on earth.  They were good enough to cause millions of immigrants to come to a land of opportunity and to make a better life for themselves and their children.  They were good enough for us to assume a place of moral leadership and to give new meaning to the word freedom for all throughout the world to see and to admire.  They were good enough then – so why aren’t they good enough now?

If we want to address the question of America and her problems – perhaps one of the places we should start is by examining the implications of divorce on our children.

ON THINKING YOU’RE IMPORTANT

Sol and Esther came from a small village in Russia and were married by the Rabbi just before they left for America. It was 1905. They settled into their new country and their new home in New York. Sol was a tailor and got a job in a little tailor shop to support his wife and what would become their family of six. Throughout their marriage the two of them only had eyes for each other and their children.

Move forward to 1980. The two of them are anticipating a wonderful celebration for their 75th wedding anniversary. And then Esther became ill. Gravely ill. An ambulance rushed her to the hospital where she was admitted to the intensive care unit.

Dr. Spielberg consulted with Sol outside his wife’s room.

Sol, I wish I could give you a more optimistic assessment – but Esther is fading quickly. Her vital signs are extremely weak and I doubt she will make it through the night. Go in to her and say your goodbyes.”

With a heavy heart, Sol sat on his beloved’s bed and held her hand. Esther opened her eyes and said, “Oh, my beloved husband. We have been married for almost seventy-five years and what a wonderful life we have shared together.”

Do you remember how on our wedding night you made passionate love to me? Do you think that you could once more make love to me before I die?”

Sol had never refused a request that Esther made of him, so he put a chair up against the door, got in bed with his wife and to the best of his ability at his advanced age, made love to her.

Esther was exhausted from this and fell into a deep sleep. Sol got dressed and went into the waiting room, expecting to hear that his wonderful wife had died.

But after an hour, one of the floor nurses came up to him and said that Esther’s vital signs had stabilized. Her pulse and heart beat were normal. Perhaps there was some reason for hope.

It took a week but Esther left the hospital and seemed rejuvenated. Her health continued to improve and Sol and Esther celebrated their seventy-fifth anniversary.

And what a celebration it was. All of their relatives, their children and grand-children and two great-grandchildren were at the hall that their successful cousin Seymour from Detroit had rented for the event. (Seymour owned two car dealerships in that city).

There was an endless bounty of food on the table and a wonderful little band played music to which the guests danced in celebration. All were having a marvelous time – except for Sol who sat in a corner with his elbow on his knee, his head on his fist and a contemplative look on his face – looking more like Rodin’s “The Thinker” than the man celebrating this special event.

Finally cousin Seymour from Detroit came over to him and put his hand on Sol’s shoulder. Cousin Seymour said, “Sol. This is a wonderful celebration. Two months ago you didn’t think you would ever see this happy day. And here you are looking as though you had lost your best friend. So what’s the story?”

Sol responded, “Seymour – if I only knew. If I only knew.”

Seymour said, “So what is with this – if I only knew?”

Sol said, “Seymour – if I only knew – I could have saved Eleanor Roosevelt.”

Moral: Don’t take yourself too seriously.

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