John Edwards is a rich hypocrite. He is vain. He spends too much money on his hair, his house and everything else. He isn’t believable. He shouldn’t be talking about the poor – he is just using them. These are the critiques that I read about him in print and in my blog and in private emails to me.
I think I know why he bugs us. It isn’t any one of those reasons. He bugs us because he challenges each of us in a most uncomfortable way. In talking about poverty he makes us confront the poor. And unlike other major social issues – health care or immigration for instance – we know we can do something about poverty. We know that we can give me more money and time. We know that we can spend a little less on ourselves to help the poor.
It is easier, however, to label him a hypocrite.
We have this very disturbing ‘hypocrisy’ standard when it comes to dealing with the poor. If a politician is rich and says anything about the poor we say they are hypocrites. We do not apply that standard anywhere else. Imagine if we did. Would that mean that only sick politicians could talk about health care? Only immigrants could talk about immigration? Of course not. I think, however, that we do it to make ourselves feel better. If we can call someone else a hypocrite we don’t have to listen them and unlike mega-issues like health care and immigration poverty is something that we can touch – we can help the poor that we see and those in our communities. And we know this and it bothers us and that is why we so want to discredit those politicians who talk about them.