Everyone is being nice now to John Edwards. I haven't heard a single "Breck girl" joke or "faggot" slur in the hours since Edwards and his wife Elizabeth faced the cameras to announce that her breast cancer had returned. And that, yes, he was continuing his campaign for the presidency "despite" his wife's diagnosis.
Despite the implied criticism, no one dared to suggest this was the wrong decision. That Edwards might be a selfish husband at best and a callous opportunist at worst. Even the increasingly unhinged Tony Snow, a cancer survivor, paused in the heat of stonewalling Congress to offer a few kind words to Elizabeth Edwards. Something to the effect of, "Hang in there! I'm with you!"
Elizabeth Edwards is a strong person. She survived the loss of her teenage son Wade in a car accident. She got diagnosed with breast cancer the day after her husband lost the 2004 election. Personally, if my 16-year-old son were to die in a car wreck, I would crawl into a little hole somewhere and never come out again. Instead Elizabeth Edwards was the personification of grace, optimism and courage. She not only crawled out of her grief but wrote an inspiring, brutally honest account of her painful experiences. Can you imagine Tom DeLay writing a book called "Saving Graces"?
I hope the goodwill, the niceties, the prayers for John and Elizabeth Edwards continue. I pray they do. But in a political climate where nastiness and name-calling have become epidemic, I have no reason to believe they will. Neither should John and Elizabeth Edwards. It's only a matter of time before the right-wing blogosphere or Rush Limbaugh start throwing around the "c" word, start smearing Edwards for pursuing his presidential dream while his wife has cancer. Accuse him of exploiting her illness for political gain.
When that happens, I have every faith that Elizabeth Edwards will handle it.
Mona Gable is a writer and journalist whose articles on politics and parenting have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Health, Child, and Salon, among other publications.