Remembering (reader post)

In Uncategorized on December 8, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I feel sad that Elizabeth Edwards died, and I’m not sure why. I didn’t know her, and from what I hear I doubt I would have particularly liked her. But watching the stock footage of her on CNN made me realize that what makes me sad is the way we will all remember her. As much as the media try to be even-handed and show pictures of her speaking and signing her book, she’s always going to be the woman who was callously wronged by her overly ambitious, way-too-well-coiffed, philandering husband.

I think we’re comfortable remembering people, but especially women, in this way. They are strong, even extraordinarily so, but not so much for what they did, more for what they withstood. The various campaigns that have taken off to raise awareness about war rape in DRC and other places are also based on this premise. We are shocked by what has been done to those women, and even if we know better, that’s what we think of when we think of them. I think this is a way of distancing ourselves from the bad things that happen to other people. When we feel grief for what has happened to them, we then don’t have to contend with their reaction to it. Someone else’s adversity is sad; their struggle to handle it is painful and prolonged way past our attention span.

Remembering, and this sub-type of remembering that is feeling a simplified grief for someone you have never met, is inherently selfish. That pain isn’t ours to be sad about. But outrage is satisfying wherever we can get our hands on it. So we’re going to remember Elizabeth Edwards as a victim. It’s definitely easier than having to read her book and actually think about what it says.


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