The Tar of Disgrace, Never Forgotten and Never Forgiven
“I felt like every layer of my skin and my identity was ripped off me … It’s a skinning of sorts. You feel incredibly raw and frightened. But I also feel like the shame sticks to you like tar.” https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/16/monica-lewinsky-shame-sticks-like-tar-jon-ronson.
These are the words of Monica Lewinsky, the former full-time intern and part-time courtesan of President Bill Clinton. Her role in the impeachment of Clinton was to have inappropriate sex, with the President, in the White House; a transgression committed by multiple Presidents and their paramour throughout our nation’s history. Since the discovery of the ‘little blue dress’ and the production that followed, Ms. Lewinsky has yet to be forgiven.
Rachel Dolezal, a once respected minority rights activist and teacher, also comes to mind. She lost it all after it was revealed that she was born white, while self-identifying as black. She too is now a social pariah.
We neither condone nor excuse ill behavior. The world is full of dangerous people who think nothing of causing mischief. There must be personal accountability for acts that intentionally and/or unnecessarily harm others. Public scorn plays a legitimate role in deterring such mal-behavior.
However, having inappropriate sex is an indiscretion of which we are all guilty. Who among us has not gotten a ‘piece’ we had no business getting? Who among us has not had sex with someone, somewhere, sometime that we knew was wrong. Take for example ‘getting busy’ in a vehicle, a rite of passage that is as American as apple pie. And we fail to see how anyone is harmed by Ms. Dolezal’s self-identification.
Thus, we should not be judged by our worst moments rather than the totality of our existence. We should not be forever shamed, scorned and ridiculed with no possibility of pardon or redemption for one-act of folly. A single indiscretion or even an unfortunate series thereof does not strip away one’s humanity.
More importantly, the greater good is not served by forever holding a grudge against those tainted by some ‘scarlet letter’. When appropriate, it is in our collective best interest to forgive and forget.