“Come and whisper in my ear. We need dirty laundry.”– Don Henley
A couple of people have commented about my writing. One suggested I write a book. Another just noted about how much I’m writing. This is two posts in one day. I’m not sure this much writing is a good thing. It means there is a lot stuff bothering me. My hope is that these will taper down. However, a trio of stories converge that all seem to be on the same wavelength.
Schaudenfreude is a German word that has no literal English equivalent. The closest anyone has come to defining it is “shameful joy”. Dennis Miller once said it was “feeling shitty about not feeling shitty about someone else feeling shitty.” I’ve always told my students it is that impulse to laugh at the student that tumbles down the stairs. That’s of course after you determine they are alright.
The trouble with schaudenfreude is two-fold. First, there is a tremendous sense of karma that gets attached. You can always assume that the intensity that you feel it for someone else is returned in kind by someone else. The second issue is that it seems when it happens to someone in public, we don’t even bother to check to see if they are okay at the bottom of the stairs.
In no particular order, you have the Conways. George Conway and Kellyanne Conway have both quit their respective positions. They aren’t the first couple to be on opposite sides of a political debate, but they might be the most famous at the moment. In between, they have a teenage daughter that appears to be acting out.
This is where you get wild speculation about the problem. Everything is being thrown out from drugs to a request for emancipation. Come and whisper in our ear. Give us dirty laundry. Sympathy for either Conway is short. That’s the beauty of being on both sides of the current debate. Trump supporters hate George for spearheading the Lincoln Project. Trump critics hate Kellyanne because she frequently lied for him to ridiculous degrees. The end result is that instead of sympathy, people are busting out the popcorn.
The second story is the story of Jerry Falwell Jr. He resigned from Liberty University today after what appears to be the beginnings of a sex scandal. Depending on who you believe, either his wife had an affair with the pool boy or he and his wife had a threesome with the pool boy. Apparently, he is trying to beat the story and tamp down on the hysteria.
Nothing guilds the lily like a good sex scandal for an Evangelical religious leader. People seem to enjoy the hypocrisy, but that hypocrisy cuts both ways. If you profess to believe that what people do in the privacy of their own home should be their own business then it should remain their business. Of course, for disgraced evangelists to continue to decry sexual depravity is a bit rich, but I’m also not a member of his church.
Finally, we get Melania and the White House rose garden. Part of me can’t believe I’m even commenting on this the same day as when I commented on a man being shot seven times in the back. On the list of things to care about, this rates pretty low. It’s all a part of the rage machine than many of us have allowed ourselves to get sucked into. However, to catch everyone up, essentially Melania dug up (or had workers dig up) all of the trees and most of the flowers that other first ladies had planted going back to 1913. This apparently was a sign of disrespect.
Attacks on first ladies are as old as the country itself. This has always been shaky ground. On the one hand, we don’t elect the first spouse. They aren’t on the ballot. Yet, they are public figures, so there is some level of scrutiny that comes with the role. So, how much scrutiny and what kind of scrutiny is warranted?
Well, a number of people have questioned Melania about her past. She took some pretty raunchy pictures back in the day when she was a model. Her immigration status has come into question particularly since her husband is anti-immigrant. She has commented publicly that she married Donald for the money. All of this might be true, but is it really fair to crack down on her for what she may have done years ago? Again, shaky ground.
Yet, first ladies always have their own initiatives. The Bush’s were big into reading. Laura was in fact a school librarian before her husband went into politics. Nancy Reagan famously had the Just Say No campaign. Hillary was intimately involved with the health care debate. When you throw yourself into the public sphere, you invite criticism. All of them have been criticized.
Melania talked about cyber bullying but really hasn’t done much. She also infamously wore the “Who Cares, I don’t” jacket to visit refugees in Texas. I would say she should certainly expect criticism for both. There is criticism and there is name-calling. She doesn’t deserve to be called a tramp, whore, or bitch any more than Michelle Obama deserved to be called a monkey or a man.
What all three of these stories have in common is that they involve people we didn’t elect to anything. Most of us are not affiliated with Jerry Falwell’s church. We certainly didn’t vote for Kellyanne Conway or her husband. Melania and Barron are along for the ride as well. Many have a character test they apply when they vote for president, governor, representative, or senator. I have no issue with that as long as it is applied evenly across the board. What I do have a problem with is people moralizing others that do not hold elected office.
All I know about Kellyanne Conway, George Conway, Jerry Falwell Jr., or Melania Trump is what I see of them in public. I know nothing about their private lives and frankly don’t think it’s any of my business. Criticizing their public acts are one thing. Poking fun about what appear to be family matters is something else. They deserve better. We all do.