Elizabeth Smart Is Engaged!

Now leave her the hell alone.

News broke over the weekend that Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted by an itinerant “prophet” and his insane wife a decade ago at age 14, is engaged to be married. Smart, a music student at Brigham Young University, made the announcement to ABC News, but declined to provide her fiancé’s name or any other information on the proposal or forthcoming wedding, saying only that she is “excited.” So, America, can you just back off, please?

Ever since she was “found” nine months after Brian David Mitchell kidnapped her at knifepoint from her bedroom in June of 2002, Smart has tread a fine line in dealing with her “celebrity” status. With her parents, she was interviewed by Katie Couric and Oprah. Her family published a book and authorized a TV movie based on it, saying they realized such a film was inevitable and preferred to exercise some control over its content. Smart herself crept into my affections forever when, appearing on Nancy Grace’s revolting TV show in order, she believed, to speak about sex-offender registration legislation, she was instead subjected to questions about her experiences in captivity. “I am really here to support the bill and not to go into what—you know, happened to me,” Smart told her shameless inquisitor. When Grace persisted, so did Smart: “I’m really not going to talk about this at this time … and to be frankly honest, I really don’t appreciate you bringing all this up.” In short, she showed the sort of class and modesty so many of us lack nowadays.

Lots and lots of people seek out the limelight. Others are thrust into it. Seems to me we ought to draw a distinction between how we treat the two camps. Someone like, say, Lindsay Lohan or any of the Kardashians—fame-whores who ache for cameras and attention at every opportunity—are totally fair game for whatever level of scrutiny we care to focus on them. They invite it, they court it, they live for it, and they deserve what they get. But the Elizabeth Smarts of this world (and there are far fewer of them), those rare creatures who shun publicity except when they honestly think it will help direct attention to social problems that concern them, should receive special dispensation from our insatiable appetite for knowing everybody’s secrets all the time. It would make the distinction between the two more obvious—the fameballs would more clearly be exposed for what they are. And it would protect innocents who through no fault of their own stand beneath the relentless klieg light of “celebrity” gossip. Why should we reward Nancy Grace for her tasteless prurience and make Smart suffer despite her decency? Wouldn’t the world be better if it were the other way around?