The pro-family values crowd is taking the lead in calling for Jennifer Wilbanks’ scalp (for all you recently emerged cave-dwellers, she is the Georgia woman who set off a national bride-to-be hunt a few days before her scheduled wedding by taking an unscheduled trip to Las Vegas as a remedy for an attack of cold feet) and ridiculing her abused but loyal fiancée for making it clear that the wedding plans were still on. Several radio commentators from the right, like Glenn Beck and Laura Ingraham, have ridiculed John Mason for days. Neil Boortz, on his website, opined that “whatever happens, John Mason still needs his head examined if he doesn’t kick this one to the curb ASAP.”
And yet John Mason’s conduct embodies the ethical values that marriage advocates have been extolling with increasing volume for decades. He has made a commitment of unconditional love. He will not let one bump in the road, or even a substantial pot-hole, cause him to abandon his determination to form a permanent partnership in life’s journey. He was badly treated by his wife to be, and she has demonstrated that, in all likelihood, there will be challenges ahead. He loves her, and he intends to get married and stay married.
John Mason’s constancy under adversity does not make him a sap, or an idiot, or a spineless jellyfish, or any of the other unflattering characterizations that have been assigned to him in the wake of his declaration of continued affection for Jessica, troubled though she appears to be. His determination is heroic, and he is proving himself to be the kind of man who values commitment, charity, forgiveness, caring, and honesty, and who has the courage and the fortitude to follow those values when most of us would abandon ship without the slightest twinge of regret. The venom hurled his way by supposed marriage advocates only shows the shallowness of their commitment to the institution. “Stay married!” they say. “Tough it out!” they preach. “Don’t quit the minute the going gets tough!” they intone. And when a man actually demonstrates what these high-sounding phrases mean in practice, they laugh at him.
I can anticipate the likely rebuttal: he and Jennifer aren’t married yet. I reject it as a pathetic excuse for an argument. Much of the criticism of Jennifer’s bizarre escapade has been based on the fact that she had made a commitment of love to Mason, and yet was willing to allow her fiancée to twist slowly in the media winds while he worried about her safety. And they were right to criticize her: a couple should be as committed to the marriage relationship before the marriage as after. Mason said as much, though his syntax and phrasing only gave his conservative attackers more cause for hilarity.
“‘Cause we haven’t walked down the aisles, just because we haven’t stood in front of 500 people and said our I dos, my commitment before God to her was the day I bought that ring and put it on her finger and I’m not backing down from that now,” Mason told Sean Hannity.
Nobody knows if the union of Mason and Wilbanks will defy the predictions of those who have pronounced it an exercise in futility. But the marriage, assuming it does occur, will nonetheless stand as a supreme example of an individual following the spirit of traditional wedding vows: taking a wife
John Mason is one American male who takes those words seriously, and intends to live by them; that is, after all, what vows are all about. He does not deserve to be ridiculed by those whose loudly proclaimed dedication to those same words is a paper-thin façade.
They are the fools, and he is a hero.