Paul Greenberg

What more can be said is this: It's not just the governor who has been hurt by his indiscretion, to lapse into understatement, but all those others affected by any case of double adultery. Which pays even more in sorrow than double indemnity does in compensation for a loss.

I knew it was a small world; I'd forgotten how much like a small town it is. And every time the story repeats, some of us think of the innocents who also pay the price. The spouse and children.

Just about the only good to come out of such headlines may be the example it provides for others -- of high, low and in-between estate. An example to beware. The slow types will have to learn the painful, first-hand way. Experience runs a dear school, but some will learn in no other.

What strength those betrayed must now summon. To quote the estimable Wilfred M. McClay of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, a student of the American character or lack thereof, "the world is full of loyal and resourceful political wives who show far more grit than the marquee figures to whom they are married."

The only addition I'd suggest to the professor's all too apt observation is that it doesn't apply to just political wives.

A concept like grit -- a concept Mark Twain and other writers of the 19th century used to call sand -- doesn't get the use or admiration it once did. Which explains a lot about the state of American society. And why, instead of so much talk about Hope, Audacity and Change, it would be a good sign if Grit would get equal -- or greater -- billing.

Robert Henri, an American artist of the Ashcan School of the last century, when grit may have been more appreciated, defined it best without needing to use the word: "Do not let the fact that things are not made for you, that conditions are not as they should be, stop you. Go on anyway. Everything depends on those who go on anyway."

In the rash of tabloid headlines and TV talk shows that now have a new subject to devour, discard and then replace within 24 hours or maybe 24 days at the most, it is the families some of us think about -- and hope they will go on anyway. Because everything depends on those who go on anyway.

(Recommended Reading: "An American Virtue" by Wilfred M. McClay in the Spring 2009 issue, The Grit Issue, of "In Character: A Journal of Everyday Virtues," sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation.)


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.