WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE NO LONGER GET EMBARRASSED?

At this May’s Republican Convention in Utah, Mitt Romney stood in front of an audience of loud, heckling Trump cultists and said, “Aren’t you embarrassed?” Clearly the answer was no, since they continued screaming and booing and hurling insults. They sounded eerily like the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6th.  Not a self-conscious one among them. 

 Kevin McCarthy stood in front of reporters after kicking Liz Cheney to the curb for having the audacity to tell the truth, and said, “I don’t think anyone is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election.” His face should have turned bright red. He should have been mortified by the brazen and ridiculous lie he just told. Nope. He was fine with it.

 As are other elected officials who now describe the insurrection on January 6th as being no different than a bunch of tourists going through the Capitol. They even suggest that some of them were hugging and being helpful to others. As far as any of us know, tourists have never smashed windows, occupied offices, threatened lives, beaten officers, and defecated inside the Capitol. But why let truth get in the way of the lies that Donald Trump has put his stamp of approval on, especially when you have no inner monitor left to warn you back into reality and decency?

 When my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he continued going to church for a couple of years. One Sunday, someone snapped a photo of him looking visibly disoriented. They tried to get the picture published, going first to Page Six in the New York Post. Richard Johnson, who was then the editor of Page Six, told me that he refused to run with the photo and also made public the fact that someone was shopping it around. His intention was to embarrass that person. It worked. The picture was not emblazoned in papers or shown on television. That would never happen today. There are certainly some who would be ashamed to mock a person with Alzheimer’s, but there are too many others who would have no qualms about doing exactly that.

Donald Trump left us with many things, none of them good. One of those things is the message that you can behave however you want and never be embarrassed. He showed by example how to live a life of no conscience, no shame, no responsibility, and he got millions of people to adopt that same strategy. Mocking a disabled person, saying vile things about women, indulging in cruelties and lies – go for it, is his instruction, and never apologize.

So, who are we if we don’t get embarrassed by bad acts and viscous lies? Shame means you have a conscience. It means you have a moral compass that pulls at you when you veer away from it.  To lose that, to abandon it to avarice and manipulation, leaves you adrift in a realm where truth is whatever the loudest person says it is.  

In his poem The Second Coming, William Butler Yeats wrote “the center cannot hold.” At the end of that verse, he also wrote this: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” That’s where we are now in America. And what America is going to be in the future depends on what we do with that inconvenient truth.

One Response to WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE NO LONGER GET EMBARRASSED?

  1. Joy kim says:

    I am no fan of Romney but, yes, truth!!

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