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Public stocks, public dunkings. These were the fates of those shamefully accused of witchcraft in the 1600’s.
Scarlet Letter A’s for adulterers in the 17th century. A way of publicly humiliating and shaming those who went outside of their church sanctified marriages back in the day.
Today Amish still turn their backs on their brethren and sistren when they feel they have wronged the church in some way, their way of saying “Shame on you.”
Shame, Shame, Shame.
We were and still are a country of shamers. And we shame everyone.
Recently a woman took photos of Geoffrey Owens, an actor who had played Elvin Tibideaux on the Cosby show, while he worked at a NJ Trader Joe’s grocery store. She posted the photos on her social media account and it caused quite an uproar. An actor working as a cashier in a grocery store? For shame! Somehow this misguided woman was under the impression that actors who aren’t acting don’t still need to pay rent, put food on the table and do what the rest of us have to do to make ends meet. She job-shamed him.
Luckily Mr. Owens has a strong sense of self and didn’t fall into the trap of feeling any shame. He was an actor making ends meet by working as a cashier. But the notoriety of the event did force him to leave a job that he may have otherwise been content to keep working at had the issue of “job shaming” not come into play and been plastered over the internet. (Although the woman who posted the pics later expressed remorse for the entire episode, Mr. Owens, a man just minding his own business, ended up having to quit his job.)
And then there is actor Steven Wilder Striegel, all set to be featured in a 20th Century Fox film “The Predator”, that is until a co-star in the film, Olivia Munn, discovered that Striegel was a former sexual offender. (Why she chose to pull skeletons out of someone else’s closet is unclear, but that’s what she did.) Munn wasted no time in alerting Fox studios of her discovery and Fox quickly excised Striegel’s scene. Munn stated that she was “surprised and unsettled” that the director (who new of Striegel’s past and was a close personal friend of his) hadn’t shared the information with cast and crew. (I wonder how Ms. Munn would feel if any and all of her past mistakes were pulled from the closet and shared by the director with cast and crew?)
Did it matter to Munn that Striegel’s offense was from 2010? Or that he had already completed his court appointed sentence? Or that he could probably lose his job for no other reason than the fact that he was on the registry?
No. It certainly didn’t matter to Ms. Munn. She thought she was doing everyone a favor, righting some terrible wrong by exposing a part of Mr. Striegel’s past which I’m certain he’d rather and rightly, have put behind him. Of course Ms. Munn’s “good intention” ended up right on the front page of the internet, the public shaming venue of the 21 century.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of people like Ms. Munn who don’t think before they act. Things could have been handled so much better. She could have talked to Mr. Striegel about the information she had uncovered, about her concerns working with him. Or, she could have given up her part in the film if she was uncomfortable working with Striegel. But no, none of that happened.
A few days later Munn went on to complain in an interview that she felt isolated by her co-actors, that she felt they were giving her the “cold shoulder” and not giving her the proper amount of support for what she’d done. After all, she had spoken up and done the right thing by exposing a human being who is required to register, hadn’t she? (Perhaps there were other actors who didn’t agree that she had “done the right thing”. Perhaps there are rational people who believe that when a person has paid for their past transgressions, they should be left in the past!) Maybe the tide is turning…..
I don’t know if Ms. Munn sees herself as some kind of hero or if she wants an award for saving the rest of the cast from…..from what exactly? A man with a past (Ms. Munn, we all have a past) who was just trying to work. Mr. Striegel hadn’t done anything sexually inappropriate towards Ms. Munn or anyone else in the movie from what I can gather in the news articles. So what was she trying to do exactly? Shame someone else to get publicity for herself? I don’t know. It’s hard to understand why someone does something like that.
Today we want everything to be a media event. And we want to be the star, the hero, the righter of wrongs. There’s a # movement for everything.
We’ve seen it with the #MeToo movement, the #Time’sUp movement. Not a day goes by anymore when someone isn’t accusing someone else of some kind of sexual wrong-doing. Events that one side says happened decades ago are brought out of the dark recesses of a closet. It becomes a public “he said she said” media bonanza. The spotlight is often on those in Hollywood and there’s an old Hollywood expression “any publicity is good publicity”. So, good, bad or indifferent, if it gets someone in the spotlight, even at someone else’s expense, well, that’s what seems to matter, frequent spotlight moments.
As for the rest of us mere mortals, when it comes to Hollywood or big corporation CEO’s, do we ever knows who’s telling the truth when sexual accusations are thrown around? To be honest, it happens with such frequency that most of us no longer care “what” if “anything” really happened or who was to blame.
We become numb to that kind of thing pretty quickly when it happens again and again and again, and you never really know who’s being truthful.
Shame, Shame, Shame.
What is wrong with society? Do we get some depraved sense of pleasure by shaming others? Do some of us feel so “morally superior” that we think we are above ever being shamed ourselves? Is shaming each other ingrained in us humans?
Those accused of sexual offenses are shamed.
They are shamed when the offense happens. Their offense often makes the local newspaper, TV or in some cases the internet. The media thrives on publicly humiliating and shaming.
After completing their sentences, those required to register are shamed by their government by being placed on a public ‘hit’ list accessed by vigilantes.
Their families are shamed, their friends are shamed.
America. Aren’t we better than this?