Last Friday night, on a glorious summer evening, I could have gone to an outdoor concert, at a venue not five minutes from my home. Or I could have sat on my deck, dining alfresco and sipping a nice Italian Pinot Grigio.
Instead, I was glued to the flat screen, unable to turn away from Rielle Hunter, who appeared on 20/20.
If you’re like me and the million of others who just can’t stay away from “shame-on-you” TV, you’re filling a human need that probably goes back to the dawn of time: the desire to see some good, old-fashioned public humiliation.
In our not-so-distant past, legal, public executions often attracted huge crowds, providing folks with entertainment along with satisfying their need to see a person literally hang his head in shame. The last public hanging in the United States took place in Kentucky in 1936 and was witnessed by 20,000 people.
But in the 21st century, it isn’t always easy to find someone whose shameful behavior has caused him or her mortification. And not just because there are no more public executions here.
Take our ex-governor, Rod Blagojevich, for example. After his trial, in which he was convicted of 17 counts of public corruption, most of us could hardly wait to see what he had to say, hoping, finally, to hear some contrition, some admission that he’d done something wrong.
Unfortunately, with Blagojevich and with Hunter, we have gotten little of the later. Neither one appears to be genuinely apologetic or embarrassed.
If it was me—and most likely you—we’d probably want to go crawl into a cave after getting caught doing the sort of inexcusable, cringe-worthy things that these two did. But no.
Blagojevich, even on his way to prison, was shaking hands and giving out autographs as if he was his idol Elvis. And Hunter, of course, is now out there brazenly giving interviews, laughing as she hawks her book and talking trash about John Edwards’ late wife Elizabeth, who is no longer here to defend herself.
Have these people no shame? Astonishingly, no.
Most of us live quiet, ordinary existences, working hard, taking care of our families, trying to do the right thing. So if someone does something we perceive as big-time wrong, we want them to pay, at least in part, by showing a bit of penitence. Why? Does it make us feel better about ourselves? Damn straight.
But I finally give up. I am not going to watch any more Rielle Hunter interviews.
In the 21st century, the shameful have become shameless. With Hunter, as with Blagojevich, I am never going to get me some humiliation payback.
And that’s okay. Sometimes, as Mick Jagger has told us, you just don’t get no satisfaction.
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