The Elephant in the Room

There is an elephant in the room. This blog is about Georgia politics but this entry departs from that subject. Although I am sure there are some out there who will try and make this political. So be it, there is a very important point to be made.

My parents divorced when I was two years old and it was messy. Thereafter I was raised by both sets of grandparents. For twenty-two years the subject was treated as an eggshell around me, despite what happened no one would let me hear how nasty it got.

When I began looking for an internship during my first summer out of law school, I had no ambition to wind up where I did. Call it fate, call it karma, call it divine guidance – but I wound up working at the firm that handled my Mother’s side of the divorce. I never intended to open the file and at first I was not even curious. But as the month of June passed and I found work slowing down, my mind began to drift to that manila folder in the transferred files that had my name affixed to it. I knew the only thing left in the folder was Affidavits, Pleadings, Answers, and Motions. But I could not help myself.

One day during lunch, I opened Pandora’s Box. No, that doesn’t cover it. I ripped the hinges off the door of Pandora’s Box. I read over all those files, time and time again. It was all there just as I had imagined, down to the Court’s Order signed by the Honorable Judge Lawson. I haven’t spoken to anyone about what I saw. Part of me was angry, part of me was sad – and honestly I was somewhat embarrassed. I am a twenty-four year old man. At this point in my life I have been through back surgery, a year of law school, the death of my Grandfather, and a million other hardships. But staring into that folder brought tears to my eyes.

One of my favorite American writers, Thomas Wolfe, is known for the quote “You can never go home again.” And that quote is so true. Scars merely fade, they don’t disappear – no matter how much you heal, forgive, and move on. The Christian faith is grounded in this principle. Adam and Eve began the fall of man by eating the forbidden fruit. While salvation is available to man in that faith, innocence is never regained. One may be washed in the blood and forgiven, but they can never regain that innocence which has been lost.

The mind is a fragile thing. I don’t regret what I did, however I would not have been prepared for it ten years ago. I don’t know how it would have impacted my life then and I don’t care to know.

I give you that back story so you understand where I am coming from. There is an elephant in the room in the discussion about the Scott’s divorce records. Put the politics aside. Put the little Republican and Democrat labels aside. There is a ten year old child here.

I have no clue what is in those records. I know that this young man is not in any immediate danger. I see no reason to expose him to the nastiness of his parent’s divorce right now. If he were 18, I would say go ahead and unseal them. I don’t have to speak from experience as this is America and we have all been exposed in one way or another to how nasty a divorce can be. We have seen it on television, in the newspapers, and even in our communities. You can go and watch your local Superior Court if you doubt me. Call a Divorce Attorney and ask them. Divorces are nasty.

And that is my problem with the current course of this conversation. Talk politics all you want, but there is more at stake here. The very well-being of a child is at stake. This child does not deserve to have the shadow of his parents divorce hanging over his head when the media gets those records.

This is not about politics. I stand firm and steadfast when I say that. If this involved a Democrat, a Libertarian, a Communist, or a Republican it would not change my opinion. Perhaps my heart is too filled for compassion and sympathy. I think most of us would not want to be faced with such a burden at such a tender age. I quite honestly cannot understand how one can go forward with this while consciously disregarding that.

This is absolutely legal. That doesn’t make it right.

60 comments

  1. B Balz says:

    Several contributors point out how dirty, mean and nasty the Great Game continues to be. A few even mentioned that these are real people, with real lives.

    Ron, your post brings out the point of view of one such child who cannot defend against the machinations of the political process. I believe if more people railed against these morbid, off topic ‘revelations’ they might become obsolete.

    I have repeatedly called for political operatives to understand that their use of ‘ultimate street fighting’ will ultimately lead to censure, regulation, and rules of conduct.

    It amazes me that a person who helps get people elected has zero oversight, beyond their own moral compass.

    Very well done.

  2. John Konop says:

    I am also from a broken home and I was 10 years olds when my parents got divorced ironically. And your post captures the uneasy feeling I had when reading about this situation.

    I hope all of you read this post and try putting yourself in the shoes of all the people involved in this situation. I do think too many people on both sides enjoy the nasty contact over dealing with real issues. When I read your post I thought of letter I read a few days ago.

    Dear Candidate for Congress:

    …..Congress appears gripped by zero-sum game partisanship. The goal often seems to be more to devastate the other side (the enemy, no longer the honorable adversary) than to find common ground to solve problems, much less to have a spirited but civil debate about how to do so.

    The divisive and mean-spirited way debate often occurs inside Congress is encouraged and repeated outside: on cable news shows, in blogs and in rallies. Members who far exceed the bounds of normal and respectful discourse are not viewed with shame but are lionized, treated as celebrities, rewarded with cable television appearances, and enlisted as magnets for campaign fund-raisers.

    Meanwhile, lawmakers who try to address problems and find workable solutions across party lines find themselves denigrated by an angry fringe of partisans, people unhappy that their representatives would even deign to work with the enemy. When bipartisan ideas are advanced, they are met by partisan derision…..

    http://www.fmocforcommonground.org/

  3. polisavvy says:

    Excellent post, Ron. This does go way beyond politics, indeed. Who is to say that the reason the divorce is sealed is for monetary reasons? Sometimes people seal divorce papers if there is a significant amount of money involved, i.e., child support, trust fund, college fund, etc. They do it to protect the child. Once the papers are out to satisfy the public’s curiosity, who is to say that the child doesn’t become vulnerable from people who know too much. Some may say that this is stretching it; however, I disagree. People are desperate these days — you see it on the news all the time with robberies and home invasions, etc. This is an innocent little boy. People should realize this. Jim Marshall should renounce this type of behavior; but, of course, to date he has not.

    • B Balz says:

      Polissavy, you are correct: “Jim Marshall should renounce this type of behavior; but, of course, to date he has not.”

      But if we get into who should renounce what, and when, the list would be long and non-partisan. One only need to look back at what was said in the gubernatorial primary to see that ‘anything goes.’

      To me, the answer is reform of the entire political process from contributions to code of conduct. Clearly, many of those who are involved in the political process are incapable of self-governance.

      Fund raising should be paid with public money. The amounts limited, by law, for each office. The fact that it takes $5mm++ to elect a Congressman is a rot sucking away at the very core of Democracy.

      And the level of acrimony involved in a contest between two good candidates speaks to how poorly the current system is governed.

      • polisavvy says:

        Excellent post, B Balz. I totally agree with you. It needs to happen. And, when it does, it will be a very long time coming. Reformation on all levels needs to happen. The question is, how do we accomplish such a feat?

  4. Harry says:

    Ron, the subject matter is sensitive. This is a very compelling narrative. One wonders how being informed of family secrets at an early age impacts on development. In my case it’s a half-brother who was unknown to me until recently.

      • polisavvy says:

        Definitely an “A” in the consistency department, that’s for sure. I thought of a similar description but it wasn’t as nice as the one you selected.

    • polisavvy says:

      And, your point? So you think that the kids are fair game? You think it’s okay to reveal whatever is in a divorce for political gain? I believe we vote for the candidates, not their innocent children. It’s not like we are talking about an 18 year old — we are talking about a 10 year old. There’s a huge difference.

    • B Balz says:

      1. Be part of the solution.
      2. Don’t be part of the problem.

      One other little point. Real people, real consequences. Elephants have long memories.

  5. Steve says:

    Well-written narrative. However, the title of the post is a complete, “WTF?!?”.

    An elephant in the room is where people are uncomfortable addressing an important point, so they awkwardly talk in circles about it. However, here the possible ramifications for Austin Scott’s kid has been the main focus from the beginning. This discussion is all-elephant and no-room.

    Moreover, maybe I’ve missed a thread somewhere… but I haven’t seen any strong “pro-unsealing” arguments from even the hardcore Dem commenters here. Sorry, but a call for the Peach Pundit community to “put little party labels aside” is a wee bit disingenuous in context… when railing against a partisan outrage that hasn’t really been happening in Peach Pundit threads.

  6. polisavvy says:

    Actually, the title is quite appropriate. The definition of “an elephant in the room” is defined as “people choosing to concern themselves with tangential or small and irrelevant issues rather than deal with the looming big one.” The big looming part of that definition is the child and the detrimental impact or vulnerability that the child could experience. A lot of times children from a broken home face a huge array of issues just because of the separation process. Divorce is always hardest on the children. Is it fair to subject a child to ridicule or threats just to satisfy your own curiosity (or to help one candidate over another)? I think not.

    • Steve says:

      At least 50% of the discussion thus far has been emotional fodder about the man’s kid. If you think that figure should be 100% instead, then don’t have a juicy front-page post about the judge being a political donor… because that will definitely pull the chat in a “tangential” direction.

      I don’t think Scott’s divorce records should be unsealed. I don’t agree with any liberal blogs (with more posters than readers) who might argue strongly in favor of it. However, some folks are railing against a boogeyman who simply isn’t on Peach Pundit. I won’t say this is completely “fake outrage”… but on a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 5 that people are trying to stretch to 11.

      • John Konop says:

        Steve,

        I think that is way too much of a blanket statement about the fake outrage. I do think it depends on your life circumstances as to how you view this issue. That is why the post Ron wrote did such a great job of explaining why some of us find this situation to be very offensive. And I really do not think you can put me in the partisan hack camp.

      • polisavvy says:

        I get what you’re saying. I personally don’t think that the papers will be unsealed because I don’t feel there is a story there. I think it’s because of monetary issues. Of course, I could be way off base; but, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were nothing more than that which both Austin Scott and his ex-wife are entitled to have remain not for public viewing. Some things are basically not any of the roving eyes of the public’s business.

        • ZazaPachulia says:

          “fake outrage” — we white people are so good at it.

          I personally don’t think that divorce records should be allowed to be sealed in the first place. There are certainly valid reasons to line out parts of the record to protect minors, but what happens in taxpayer funded court rooms should, for the most part, stay in the sun…

          I know this is going to be an unpopular sentiment, but if you want to keep your skeletons in the closet to protect your children, you shouldn’t be running for public office in the first place. As far as I know, there is no arrest record for Austin Scott. I seriously doubt there is anything in those sealed records that would make me regret supporting his campaign for governor. Scott and his ex should just release the records and be done with it.

          Put yourself in the kids’ shoes… What’s a worse feeling? Knowing that your parents fought over money, cheated on each other and said nasty things about one another? Or, knowing that your parents did such terrible things to each other that they sealed the court records — ostensibly for your protection — and tried to keep them from ever being reviewed?

          The kid is being harmed either way. Once it became public knowledge that the records had been sealed (and the kid finds out that they’ve been sealed) the damage has been done.

  7. slyram says:

    Ron, you did a fine job on this post and I hope it was therapeutic in some way. I also dislike the family, dating and divorce aspects of politics. Keep that personal business away from me and if all candidates must be priest-like, we should just codify the Bible, the Torah and the Koran (okay some people want to do that) and toss the Constitution.

    Here’s a rare PP appearance by Rep. Cynthia McKinney; she use to say on the House floor that soldiers don’t get medals..they get scars. Families get so scared up in the political arena that some people wouldn’t think about running for office. On the other hand, real people go through things and real people that become public officials relate to average people better than Kennedys and Bushes.

    I worked for a former 2nd District congressman who called a staff meeting to say he was getting a divorce and it wasn’t any of our business. He was so very right and that became my standard for my next two congressional offices. Some of the junk that tanked political careers this year could have been seen as humbling life experiences that improved those people. To the day, I say the Democrat base would have related to Karen Handel’s youth and I will say that Nathan Deal seems a lot more human than he did back in the day.

    So, let me get this right: we Democrats are more concerned with dusty old divorce records than promoting Marshall’s conservative record as a tool to benefit the Blue team. And Sarah Palin’s daughter is on Dancing With the Stars why again. Political family matters are the least of my concerns this election year.

    • B Balz says:

      Well said, and I personally wish Rep. Scott was not trying to unseat Cong. Marshall. America would be better off with them both in service.

      • Doug Grammer says:

        Congressman Marshall votes for Speaker Pelosi. We don’t need him in service. We need Rep. Scott!

        • B Balz says:

          88% of the time is what I heard…

          My point is that with so many Dems that are not generally conservative, we could work with Cong. Marshall, if we actually chose to work with Dems…

          The system doesn’t work if there is only one Party running affairs. One could argue the system is not working too well with the two Parties that are charge, running affairs…

  8. Scott65 says:

    The difference between you and the candidates being discussed is that your parents did not and are not running for public office. Perhaps they were thinking of you in making that decision (have no idea if it applies). The point is that when you run for office, everything in your past is fair game (just ask Ms O’Donnell in DE). If there is something in your past that you would deem harmful to your children if it was exposed during a campaign than you have a responsibility to your kids NOT to seek public office. Children should always come first, not ones political ambitions. I’ve seen many a child sacrificed to the ambitions of their parents (one just needs to look at the pathetic mess that is Lindsey Lohan as an example). I’m not saying it is right or wrong to unseal the divorce records, but voters deserve to know the moral character of those they elect, and if it could harm their kids they should not run…period

    • B Balz says:

      “…I’m not saying it is right or wrong to unseal the divorce records, but voters deserve to know the moral character of those they elect, and if it could harm their kids they should not run…period …”

      I KNOW the moral character of Rep. Scott, met him, met his folks, spoken with him, and his lovely wife. I positively judged Rep. Scott as he commanded the Gov’t Affaris Cmte with a sense of fairness and objectivity for OTHER Georgians, not in his District.

      If there is a document, somewhere highlighting a portion of his life that is unflattering, I DON’T CARE. Virtually everyone has such a period in their lives.

      It is wrong to unseal a divorce record for political gain, IMHO. Just like it is wrong to use horribly offensive language like “barren’ in the context of a female candidate. The erosion of civility is a hot topic now.

      Over a period of generations Americans now readily accept rudeness, aggression, criminal behavior as the new normal. The fabric of our way of life is torn, and we argue over picayune matters like this.

      Life is not about absolutes. We are all human, and if we want our candidate to be ‘priestlike’ we better be very careful what we wish for.

      • Scott65 says:

        You missed the point of my post. If something could come out that you would find harmful for your children to hear, you dont run. I doubt there will be anything to that degree, but the point is still the same…all things considered your kids should always come first. Whether he is a louse or a pillar of the community is irrelevant. You know him and say he’s a great guy. Not everyone who would vote for him has that first hand knowledge, so things come out or are forced out…bottom line is you protect your kids

        • ZazaPachulia says:

          “bottom line is you protect your kids”

          I couldn’t agree more. Even your adult kids. It should never be the other way around… like say, having your daughter completely omit you and your standing as a creditor in her bankruptcy filing in order to try to hide your precarious financial situation from Republican primary voters.

        • B Balz says:

          You made yourself clear and I understand the ‘…your kids should always come first. …” point of view.

          A lot of good people, including Rep. Scott would never run for office with the fear that unreasonable ‘revelations’ are OK.

          Sadly, Congressman Marshall’s Party chose this tact, it stinks, and his silence offers complicity.

      • polisavvy says:

        B Balz, civility in political campaigns went out the window years ago, in my opinion. This is just another in a long line of incidents. As you said, there needs to be reformation on many different levels.

  9. Doug Grammer says:

    Ron,

    A very touching story. When people are in pain, they don’t always act in everyone’s best interest, including their own, or their families. I don’t know what you read and it’s none of my business. Just keep in mind that not everything in court proceedings are the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

  10. Georgia Judge says:

    Ron,
    Good post and you are absolutely correct.Some things should be out of bounds in political races but the reality is all is fair in this bloodsport and facts are helpful but not required to attack ones character or family.
    With that being said the old cliche of…. desperate times call for desperate measures… is very fitting for the Demacratic Party of Georgia.In less than one month the DPG will have been swept of all Statewide races and quite possibly two less congressional seats.So all they are left to do is attack character and dodge issues in hopes that a hail mary will keep them somewhat relevant, but it won’t work and they will be sent to the land of misfit toys for quite some time and this is a great thing.

  11. Rick Day says:

    Sorry. There is absolutely no room for civility, compassion or fairness in public elections.

    The voting public has tolerated dirty tactics for so long in return for ‘winner take all’, dirt is status quo. Silence implies consent.

    You reap what you sow. *shrugs*

    • Harry says:

      That may be true…but in this case I believe it will will work against, not in favor of Rep. Marshall if he doesn’t forcefully disclaim this motion. I don’t know the district that well, so I may be wrong.

      • polisavvy says:

        So true, Harry. Jim Marshall should denounce this type of action; but, to date, he has remained silent. With every day ticking down to the election that he remains silent, he’s losing votes. People are sick of “politics as usual.” That’s why people are so up in arms. Jim Marshall may discover that silence is not always golden.

  12. bowersville says:

    Andrew Jackson married his wife Rachael after he heard Rachael’s divorce had been finalized by her 1st husband. The divorce had not been finalized when the Jackson’s 1st married and once the divorce was officially finalized, the Jackson’s remarried.

    Andrew Jackson’s political career was through the late 1700’s and the early 1800’s. The very public accusations that his wife Rachael was a bigamist hounded Jackson throughout his life in politics and beyond. The news media and his political opponents had a heyday.

    This quest for personal information on Scott isn’t a new political tactic by any means. It doesn’t make it right, but that’s the way it is and has been throughout our American political history.

  13. ChiefofStaff65 says:

    It is wrong, but legal.

    That is all that really needs to be said. I do enjoy the return of Spacey G, adding her useless comments as always and ZaZa, the mysterious poster who would love to think she can build the same standing as the once mysterious “Icarus.”

    Peach Pundit commenter’s, or, I should better say, frequent commenter’s help me to realize my life is not as sad, angry or boring as other.

    Thank you for your work and, of course, your time.

  14. inlimine says:

    Spare the melodrama, this isn’t about protecting the child. This is about protecting the candidate. Correct me if I’m wrong, but he didn’t have it sealed for a few years after it was finalized. Doesn’t that tell you anything? What’s in the file is incredibly embarrassing for Austin Scott and no one else. That’s the truth of the matter. We’ve spent 2 or 3 days now beating this horse to death and blowing it way out of proportion in order to make it the most heinous campaign tactic in the history of the free world…when it really isn’t anything but par for the course in politics. Personal baggage is still baggage, and a candidate knows his baggage is gonna be checked when he goes into the public arena. Mr. Scott just wants his on lock down.

    • ZazaPachulia says:

      Agreed. Like I mentioned earlier in this tread, the damage is done to the kid already. Knowing that your parents’ divorce record is sealed “for your protection” is as bad or worse than knowing what actually transpired.

      Scott should just release the record and take the high road. Unless there is really, truly awful stuff in there (I’m talking Ray McBerry, Eliot Spitzer, Bishop Eddie Long or Judge Jack Camp type stuff), it’s not going to affect the campaign. If anything, the whole ordeal should make his opponent’s supporters look bad… If there is truly awful stuff, we the voters need to know about it before we cast our ballots.

      • inlimine says:

        I don’t know you, so I wouldn’t challenge either of those things.

        I just thought the post was entirely over the top to make a point that may not even be involved in this issue, i.e., “protecting a child.” As I’ve posted before, that’s just guesswork fueling this firestorm. Unless you know what is contained in the civil action file, all of this “rationale” behind keeping it locked fails.

        Then again, if some of you do know what’s in the file, it may explain the lengthy bombardment on squashing the issue?

        • Ron Daniels says:

          I can’t speak for anyone else who posts here.

          I’ve already stated I don’t know what is in the file. I don’t care. No child should be subjected to being exposed to their parents divorce at an age were it may harm them psychologically. I speak from my own experiences. I’ve related my experiences here. If you doubt their validity, I suppose you can put two-and-two together and go verify what I have said. (Dodge, Daniels, 1988-1989)

          I think I’ve also said that I don’t think this is a political issue, despite people trying to make it one. There is a blogger and an attorney involved in this. As far as I know, they are not the instrument of any campaign and no campaign endorses their actions. My issue is with them – and I fully understand that.

          I fully believe Austin Scott can fend for himself. He can afford lawyers. This isn’t about protecting him. It’s about his son. If the tables were turned I’d feel the same way. If Austin’s son was 18 I’d feel different.

          But I don’t. I just don’t see this as right. Maybe the Scotts had the one in a million divorce cases were nobody said anything bad about anyone else. I wish I was so fortunate. That certainly wasn’t the case with my parents.

          What’s the benefit of unsealing it? A blog post by the plaintiff? I don’t like making judgments about other people, especially morale judgments – but I couldn’t do this. I’m not quite sure how one does.

          I don’t really belief my writing here is far reaching enough – or even read enough – to have even the slightest impact on anything. This post in particular was somewhat of a catharsis for me. I think you’ll find in reviewing things I have posted, that I just don’t fit this mold of partisan attack. That said, this isn’t a campaign issue. This is a blogger hiring an attorney to unseal records. If either of them want to justify their position, so be it. As far as I am concerned those two are the only ones who can convince me they have a reason that trumps possible harm to the child. And if they want to do that, I encourage them to do so.

          That said, I’m not Judge nor Jury. I’m just a young man describing the world as I see it. And the only episode of Oprah I’ve ever seen was the Ghostbusters II special.

  15. Culpepper says:

    Inlimine, thanks. I was beginning to wonder if this was a political blog, or Oprah. This is big league politics, folks. The democrats have made this a national strategy. Scott should have seen it coming, been prepared for it, and addressed it. His lack of political prowess continues to shine, does it not?

    And the only person responsible for exposing his son to the public arena is Austin Scott.

    If there is nothing here, there is nothing to worry about (though all this protestation from the Scott fan club here does make one wonder). If there is something, then Scott and Scott is alone is responsible for whatever fallout occurs.

    Forget the right or wrong conversation. Politics hasn’t been a fair fight since the stone age.

  16. saltycracker says:

    Since the stone age our sophistication in “shock and awe” has greatly improved……

    Term limits would address a lot in the world of professional politicians and the millions spent to maintain them….

    • polisavvy says:

      saltycracker — I totally agree with you about term limits. It’s time. No, it’s past time that term limits become a serious discussion. I’m all for them.

  17. ChiefofStaff65 says:

    Polisavvy,

    We have term limits. It is called the voting booth.

    The minute you enact term limits, you have then empowered a professional staff to make decisions that were once made by elected officials.

    Long-term institutional knowledge trumps short-term politicians.

    • polisavvy says:

      I see your point; but, I’m weary of the ones who go to D.C. and stay there so long that they end up having loyalty more to the party than to the voters who send them there. They only vote by party lines instead of listening to us. Yes, I realize we can vote them out, but by the time we get to do that, the damage is already done. You can’t unring a bell and you can’t always get certain policies repealed. Somethings remain constant.

  18. saltycracker says:

    Great real – When an incumbent wants to run again do you really think the consituents are going to vote for the opposing Democrat or Republican in enough numbers to “enact term limits” ?

    Of course not, party loyalty will trump term limits.

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