Rod Dreher

I have a friend who is very shy by nature. He learns a lot about people simply by virtue of his reticence to speak. People often assume he agrees with them, simply because he keeps his own counsel (not out of cunning or cowardice, but simply because he’s painfully timid). Inadvertently he’s learned a lot over the years about who people really are, because they disclose themselves compulsively to him, because he’s silent.
In our loud, confessional culture, when people are silent, we impute all kinds of qualities to them that they may not have. But in some situations, silence itself might well be a moral quality. A Newsweek article notes that Rielle Hunter, the woman who bore John Edwards’ out-of-wedlock child, has been absolutely silent in this whole mess — and that it redounds to her moral credit. Excerpt:

Character comes out in a sex scandal. The public once saw John Edwards as a passionate defender of the downtrodden. Scandal has since revealed him as an empty vessel, passionate only about himself. His wife was “Saint Elizabeth,” who suffered on through the death of a child and an incurable-cancer diagnosis to help her husband do good. Now she looks like an artful manipulator, ruled by vengeful hysteria.
But perhaps most surprising is what this sex scandal has revealed about Hunter. When the story broke, Rielle seemed the last person capable of keeping her mouth shut. She was said to consult psychics for advice and to confide details of her affair in friends with names like “Pigeon.” And yet, for two years, she has behaved with more public dignity than any other figure in the Edwards scandal. In fact, she acted with more discipline and discretion than any mistress in the recent history of sex scandals.

The essayist is quick to point out that Hunter still is the woman who slept with a married man, and had his child. She’s no saint. She built a reputation as a flighty party girl and publicity whore. You wouldn’t have expected a woman like her to have behaved with the most dignity in this mess. But there you are:

But something seemed to change in Rielle. She gained the certainty that keeping quiet was the best way to go. Maybe it was motherhood. Maybe it was seeing that being a celebrity wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Or maybe it was a tranquility that was there all along, a patient determination to keep her head down and follow a quiet path with lawyers and the father of her child.

I guess we’ll find out when she eventually talks. But I hope she doesn’t.

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