The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    Ramona's picture

    How Do You Shame The Shameless?

    Every now and then I get to thinking about shame; about its legitimacy as a teaching tool ("Kids are starving in China and you won't eat your peas?"), about its necessity in a civilized society ("Shut the door! Were you born in a barn?"), and about its mean-spirited use as a weapon ("What kind of #$&*% are you, anyway?").


    I've been thinking about it a lot lately and I blame Donald Trump.  If ever there was a poster child for resolute, shameless, bad-boy-ness, it's this guy.  I wouldn't mind so much, except he thinks he's going to be our president come November, 2016.

    In a sane world, he would be going about it all wrong.  We tell ourselves we wouldn't in a million years choose a mean guy--a ruthless businessman, hilariously narcissistic to the extreme--as our leader, but then we remember that time we had to live through Bush/Cheney and we know all things are possible.  Even here.

    Dick Cheney, a man who should be hiding in a closet somewhere flogging himself bloody for his role in the Iraq debacle, is instead all over TVland complaining about President Obama's Middle East decisions--as if he were some sort of authority on those things.   He knows no shame and flaunts it.

    Shame is for sissies. 

    Fifty women and counting have accused Bill Cosby of sexual attacks over a 40 year span and Cosby says, in effect, "So what?"  So far, he's not in jail.  Shame, it would appear, is on the victims.

    John Oliver skewers the televangelist greedmeisters in a devastating take-down, the likes of which would cause a normal person to weep and rend garments, but, as of this past Sunday, not a single one of his targets was a no-show.  They were out there, going strong, still repeating their imaginary conversations with their shill, God, in order to separate the clueless from their money.  Shame, my friends, is what you should feel if you don't open your wallets RIGHT NOW to these people barely even pretending that using religion to scam isn't the greatest gig EVER.  (I wrote about them a few years ago.  Nothing happened then, either.)

    In my home state of Michigan, Tea Partiers Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat, the two disgraced and demoted ex-legislators now out of a job, not just over their sleazy affair but because they played fast and loose with government funds, are. . .ready for this?. . .getting back into the race.  They're going to run as candidates for their old jobs.  The jobs they were just ousted from less than a fortnight ago.  No shame, no blame.

    And, as expected, just yesterday the Republicans (and two lousy Democrats) in the U.S House of Representatives voted to defund Planned Parenthood, a major lifeline for millions of women. 

    So how do we shame the shameless?  The answer is, we don't.  We can't.  They're shameless.  But we don't have to reward them, either.  Shame on us when we do.


    I think the way you shame the shameless is to encircle them in the shame of others.  You turn them into pariahs.  You isolate them by having the people around them feel shame for them.  You force them to become surrounded by the shame being felt for them by the rest of society.  That is the only way to deal with the shameless; depend on the empathy for feeling shame in the rest of the world, and stoke that feeling by never letting the world forget the person's shameful behavior.   Either that or you spend a great deal an inordinate amount of time with the shameful person tied to a chair while you force teach them the meaning of shame.

    Wouldn't it be great if the shameless allowed themselves to be surrounded by people who would remind them of their shame?  They don't.  They won't.  They're cowardly bullies who build a following of people who are a lot like them.  Nobody breaks through those barriers.  They keep the barriers up as insulation against us, and they try to convince us we're all POS before we can reverse the thought.  The problem is, the more famous or powerful they are, the more able they are to build up a following of toadies who will do anything to keep their little society going.

    I'm tired of bullies.  I'm tired of people who don't let shame get in the way of whatever it is they want to do.  We can't change them.  They like the way they are.  But we can change how we deal with them.  First, we have to recognize that we can't shame them into doing things our way.  We have to keep shame out of the equation while we work on some other vulnerability.

    At least I'm guessing that's the way it'll have to work.  ;)



    I think we just have to build a bigger fence; one that surrounds them AND their sycophantic followers.

    Well, there is always kicking them in the groin shins.

    It's not so much that people like Trump are shameless. It's that the people around him aren't shaming him. I have little doubt that his circle of friends and acquaintances are telling him he has nothing to be ashamed of. And a significant portion of republican voters are telling him the same. Why should he care if people like you and I think he should spend a few months in solitude doing a little soul searching or at least hang his head in shame?

    Generally, I view the problem of shame the other way entirely.  I think that people are far too often made to feel ashamed when they shouldn't be. When a politician gets caught having an affair, I always cringe when they apologize to anyone other than their spouse and even that, I think, is best handled in private.

    We humans are mostly over-shamed, I think.

    I think there is a distinction that needs to be made between people that do shameful things and people that have no shame.  MM, you are referring to people that have done shameful things, got caught and society puts pressure on them to apologize publicly.  They usually do those apologies because they hope to salvage whatever remains of their public life, not because they actually feel any remorse.

    I believe Ramona is speaking of people that have the ability to lie or accuse or spread rumors with no feeling of remorse or care as to whether what they say is true or not.  When they get caught, they simply continue on unfettered by society's disapproval.

    Michael, I originally included a couple of paragraphs to make that distinction but decided to stick with the shameless as opposed to shaming.  That's a whole other issue.   I was going to use Anthony Weiner as an example of silly shaming, or women in general as  misogynistic shaming, but it moved me away from my original intent.    But it's a topic that would be interesting to explore.

    How low can the GOP go?????? 

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