As I mentioned last night, Republican Senator David Vitter apologized for “a very serious sin in my past” after he was discovered to have frequented a prostitute. His statement noted, in part: “Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling.”
And, evidently, his wife has indeed forgiven him, rather than making good on the threat she issued in 2000: “I’m a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary. If he does something like that, I’m walking away with one thing, and it’s not alimony, trust me.”
What a lovely sentiment. It’s like I always say: True love is the simmering threat of brutal violence.
Now, the interesting thing is that Wendy Vitter came out with this pecker-imperiling proclamation in response to having been asked by a Times-Picayune reporter “whether she could forgive her husband if she learned he’d had an extramarital affair, as Hillary Clinton and Bob Livingston’s wife had done.” And, presumably, to demonstrate her superiority to a philanderer-forgiving, castrating feminazi with no family values like Hillary Clinton, she swore instead to be an unforgiving, penis-severing, good conservative lady with family values just dripping off the end of her knife.
No doubt, it was easy to talk big shit when its only purpose was to demonize Hillary, when the thought that some distant relations of those demons might come home to roost hadn’t even entered her good conservative mind. And, no doubt, it’s not easy at all to be the spouse of a person who has an affair that becomes public knowledge, that is not just embarrassing but deeply hypocritical. If it is a marriage of mere convenience, a business arrangement, she is humiliated. If she loves him, she is also painfully betrayed. And she knows, perhaps better than most, that her decision to stay at his side will be judged by snarky bitchez, some of whom might only be callously taking an opportunity to put on brilliant display their own righteousness.
Judge not lest ye be judged, someone once said. I think it was Jim Bakker.
But of course it is so tempting, when there is such a public story, when we are granted the chance to say, “I would never” or “I certainly would.” Almost a decade ago, when Hillary was standing by her man, I recall conversations with friends, most of whom swore from here to eternity they would leave him were they her, and none of whom believed for a moment her decision had anything to do with love. I said I believed that she loves him, and it was if I’d delivered the punchline to a splendid joke, the laughter was so rollicking. No, no, I was told; she is just an opportunist. They were so sure.
I’ve never been sure of anyone’s marriage but my own—and even that is a dubious proposition some days. Only the two people inside a marriage know its truth, and even then only insofar as they are honest with each other. I’m more sure of my belief that it can’t be easy to be a woman like Hillary Clinton, to find a partner who’s truly your equal, and I’m quite sure of my feeling that, having found mine, I can’t possibly say with any certainty what I’d do, faced with what she was. The person to whom I turn when troubled is Mr. Shakes, always Mr. Shakes—and my reason for loving him, for choosing him to be the one to whom I turn, is more than fidelity alone. I don’t know if its loss would undermine the rest, if, were it he who had betrayed me, I could no longer turn to him at all. I don’t hope to find out.
I know only that I am a work in progress, and so is he. And I’m not sure which of those is scarier; each has its moments, I guess. Both of us have messy slates, filled with the ticks and scrawls and scratches of lives lived with a willingness to be uncertain. And the honesty to know that means we don’t really know fuck-all about what that means for our future. I wouldn’t even presume to make a joke about what would happen if or if or if…
Judge not cuz who the fuck knows, dood? That was maybe Bill or Ted.
I’d like to think those insistent upon leaving a clean-slated life—who convince themselves with certitude of the future, and who from that future cast judgments on the rest of us stumbling about in the thrilling and frightening darkness of uncertainty—might look at the Vitters and reconsider whether the bitter judgment of others is wise or right. I’d like to think they might see that the sanctity of anything, maybe especially a marriage, is undermined only by inattention, by a failure of vigilance, and that from such a realization might commence a whole new respect for difference and choice, and a recommitment to the care and consideration their own lives, and the people in them, need. I’d like to think all that.
But the clean-slaters don’t sully themselves with reality. The erasers have already come out, and certainly with certainty they move on.