COLUMBIA– In Sunday service at First Baptist Church, the pastor focused on the value of fasting — that is, abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. This idea struck me as having broader applicability.
All of us, for various reasons, abstain from certain things in life. We choose to go without or deprive ourselves for what we believe are good reasons.
For example, I am a Type I Diabetic. As a result, I try to pass on sweets as much as possible. I abstain to reach my goal of good health.
My decisions to abstain from certain things have created certain norms for me. A distinct normal, if you will.
Being on this trip and covering the primaries has created a new normal for me. I abstain from being my somewhat more introverted self to make myself talk to complete strangers about their lives, politics, and often, religion.
Candidates and their families abstain too. They create a new normal to reach their goals.
Gingrich’s half sisters taught Sunday School at First Baptist this past Sunday. Their attendance was tweeted, and the press was onsite to capture the moment. Because of their brother, they abstained from a quiet day of worship and instead talked to the press (including us), posed for pictures, and did their own version of working the rope line. They did it because their brother has a goal.
Later on Sunday, I just missed Anita Perry at a small airport in Florence, SC. She and Rick Perry, like many political couples, sacrifice spending time together, and instead often travel apart from one another to maximize their campaigning. She does it because her husband has a goal.
Rick Santorum abstains too. Santorum’s commitment to travel to all of the counties in SC, like he did in Iowa, comes at a high cost. Little sleep. Lots of time in the public eye at countless public engagements.
But at a meet and greet with Santorum on Sunday in Florence, SC I was reminded of another thing candidates go without. Privacy.
When asked about his greatest disappointment in life, Santorum (and by proxy his wife Karen) gave up their hold on their private life.
Santorum talked about the loss of their son, Gabriel.
Like him or not, one’s heart aches upon hearing his story.
The Santorums abstained from keeping their loss private because they have goals. One, to share a story that far too many parents know intimately. Two, to run for a public office where nothing is private.
To be clear, I don’t pity them. The candidates and their families chose to create a new normal. Their hunger for office led to this burden. They have a goal, and that goal comes with costs.