I am on principle a defender of romantic love, and all the absurdity and pain it can bring. There is something noble about it, something that must be praised and cherished, even when it doesn’t make sense. But the more I watch Mark Sanford, the more I think he is conflating love with self-absorption, as if the two went together hand-in-hand, when it is, as a rule, exactly the opposite that is true.
Every time he talks about the pain in his heart, that organ, as seen through newsprint and cable news, seems somehow to shrink. Each new round of confessed aches and longing, every Biblical allusion, all the vagaries of his non-coital betrayals, of his dance floor marriage therapy, his electronic soul mate, his South American crying, the Hamptons tryst–all of it makes him look smaller and less significant. I don’t care about his private pain. And I get a distinct sense that he really wants me to care, that he wants us all to care, as if his pain might somehow be mythologized by the publicity, turned into something timeless and true, something worthy of forgiveness. That’s not how it works. He is not so special.