Shame– a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
There are a number of ingredients that seem to be baked in to our current culture. I’ve certainly addressed most of them. The absence of shame might be on the top of the list. Like any cultural phenomenon, we cannot trace the absence of shame to any single event or person. The remnants of this problem likely can be traced back decades.
However, you cannot trace the current state of the pandemic without mentioning the lack of shame. This is where things get hard. Shame is a personal thing and yet when someone lacks it, it becomes incumbent on others to introduce it. This is where the whole idea of cancel culture, virtue signaling, and all the other mumbo jumbo comes from.
It is also nearly impossible to get caught up into the whole “back in my day…” kind of thinking. It’s rarely ever productive. Yet, it’s impossible to deny feeling it once we’ve gotten to a certain age. There used to be shame surrounding racism. There used to be shame surrounding sexism. There used to be shame surrounding xenophobia. More importantly, there used to be shame surrounding selfishness.
There used to be a collective will to step up and help others. It happened most visibly during World War II when citizens gladly accepted rationing to help the soldiers overseas. It happens locally when natural disasters strike. It happens in religious communities when congregations step up to help families in crisis. It also happened when life saving vaccines came on the scene.
In the past several years, all of the negative behaviors have been surging in full force. The elephant is in the room. A minority of Americans elected a guy who embodies the absence of shame. A minority of Americans felt liberated. They could say what they were thinking when shame would have kept them from doing it before.
The anger I’ve felt concerning the pandemic is fairly obvious. It seems every one of these posts ends in a diatribe. However, it comes down to something very simple. People have been allowed to act badly. Their bad behavior has been celebrated in certain circles. When people get their bad behavior celebrated it continues.
Failing to get vaccinated is selfish behavior. Failing to wear masks is selfish behavior. People can spout off any kind of crap they want about their reasons for failing to do it. It’s selfishness pure and simple. It is a statement that their comfort and their feelings are more important than everyone else. This is behavior we used to shame.
A lot of things over the past several years should cause us alarm. The absence of shame might be the most disturbing thing. A man who might be the most disgusting and immoral man in recent history was and is celebrated. At long last, where is our sense of decency? Where is our shame?