A Requiem for Shame
Shame goes by many names – contriteness, remorse, penitence, regret, self-reproach, to name a few. Yet, shame is something that is disappearing from our culture at an ever-increasing rate. The more public apologies we see by politicians or celebrities, the more jaded we become. The “shame” of adultery is fleeting…lasting just beyond the public apology and until the divorce is done and everyone can “move on with their lives.” It’s become nothing more than a sad chapter in the journey of life from which all must seek to heal. An affair, either real or virtual, is explained away by perpetrators as an exercise of “bad judgment” or “yes, it was wrong, but it’s my personal life and doesn’t affect how I lead or govern.” Really? A married, former representative and new father continues to display his nether regions to more young women after his resignation and therapy, and we’re supposed to accept he’s been healed and ready to lead? By what moral authority is this even remotely fathomable? It is nothing more than narcissism run amok and it evidences a lust for power that trumps all else, especially common sense and decency.
Not so many years ago, behaviors like adultery, public drunkenness or drug addiction were considered reprehensible, disgusting and disgraceful. We felt sorry for those in such situations and, there was real shame on the part of the offender: the kind of self-loathing and sorrow that caused them to slink from the public eye, to repent and to quietly work to put their lives back in order. Public redemption was hoped for but certainly not expected. Shame was a sincere and regret-laden response to transgressions both speakable and unspeakable. Not so today, however.
Recent years have yielded a parade of fallen power brokers – Mark Sanford, Anthony (Carlos Danger) Weiner, Elliott (Client #9) Spitzer, toe-tapping Larry Craig and David Vitter – public figures who indulged in one vice or another. Now, throw in a self-destructive Lindsay Lohan, foul-mouthed Alec Baldwin and, for good measure, bong-bomber, Amanda Bynes from the notoriously ill-behaved, unabashedly left-wing Hollywood crowd, and you have a veritable menagerie of ne'er do wells of every stripe. Strangely enough, in the political arena, all the headline grabbers are men. In Hollywood, however, bad behavior observes no gender boundaries – I think that is some kind of testimony to diversity in action, one of the left’s most prized values.
Some of this crop of miscreants actually thinks a simple “I’m sorry if you were offended” sets everything right. The rest of them aren’t aware enough to apologize or believe their fame (notoriety) provides insulation of some kind. The Hollywood crowd certainly exemplifies the “anything goes” attitude. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I’ve heard Alec Baldwin apologize for assaulting photographers or for his profanity-laced voicemail rant at his daughter.
It is sad that the fallen politicos of the nation depend on a forgetful or otherwise ignorant public to restore them to fame, fortune, or power, on the strength of their mea culpas, delivered via press conferences, their resignations and stints in rehab. I’m certainly willing to forgive and forget, provided they move on and out of the public eye. The “shame” they profess is anything but – they’re staged photo opps and a ploy to get back what their “indiscretions” have damaged. For those in public office, character counts! If you screw up royally, there is a price to be paid. You no longer deserve the public trust, so stop thinking you can lead. Shame on your selfish and narcissistic behinds for believing otherwise! Were your shame real, you’d disappear from the public eye and look for another line of work.
Maybe some good, old-fashioned public humiliation is in order. Let’s bring back stocks in the public square and lock up offenders accompanied by a detailed description of their indiscretions. Some parents have done so by having their kids stand on street corners holding signs touting their sins. I, for one, am not ready to kick shame to the curb. The appropriate course of action is for the city of New York to strike Anthony Weiner from the ballots; tell him his behavior and lying disqualify him from participating in the race. Then dress Carlos Danger in the hindquarters of an ass wearing a sign proclaiming him “peter tweeter extraordinaire.” His humiliation is to parade through Times Square, in costume, with his sign until the election is over. Seems a fitting punishment to me anyway.
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