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Shame is an enigma. Some people seem attuned to the feeling even as others are not. And while not recommended in high doses, of course, a healthy amount of shame would seem to qualify as organicand all natural. Even animals have it. Observe your pet dog or cat sometime after they've had an "accident" in the home. They'll walk past you in wide circles. Their ears will droop more than usual. Their eyes dart away from yours, then back again to see if you're behaving differently toward them. They know. They're just waiting for the hammer to fall.

Poor Fido. He can't confess to the crime because his method of communication is so much different from his master's, yet his understanding of the situation is so complete ... and so amazing. He knows that very little is expected of him in exchange for the food he receives every day, but one of those meager expectations is obedience, and he knows he has fallen short. He knows he'll be punished and even more amazingly, he seems to think he deserves it. Never mind the fact that it may actually be your fault, not his.

Yes ... the gentleman in the green blazer ... that's right, third row from the back. What's your question for Senator Holhaven?

Good evening, Senator. My name's Jim Treadwell. I find it shameful, Senator, to hear lies coming out as substitution for the facts in this whole health care issue because when my children lie, for example, they know they've lied and you can see them walking around on eggshells for days. In fact, that's when I know to start looking for the lie. So how is it that you can continue to lie to us and not appear to have any shame whatsoever reflected in your speeches or in your behavior, and my question is, how can you even entertain the idea that an elected member of Congress could propose euthanasia as part of this bill knowing that it would be the same as condoning murder? That is the same, Senator, as believing that a big chunk of the voters who voted for that person also condones murder, and I resent that very much. We do not condone murder in this country, Senator, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

Shame is one of the first lessons learned in childhood. Infants and young children, not unlike our household pets, are sensitive to messages of approval (and lack thereof) from their parents--their mothers, particularly, just as is a pet from its primary handler. To withhold approval is tantamount to punishment, and to consistently deny the expression of approval to children and domestic animals qualifies as serious abuse and neglect. This often leads to clinical disorders ... the shame-based personality, for example, which in turn can lead to serious developmental problems.

Having said all of that, shame cannot be totally avoided, nor should it be. Shamefulness is the mark of contrition and regret ... the sense that a wrong must be made right and what has been broken must be made whole again. Yet there are those who will always end up "going against the grain," so to speak. If you've ever said to someone, "Have you no shame?" then you know what a shameless personality is all about. No shame, no guilt. To have reached the state of shamelessness is to have attained and embraced the plane of guiltlessness. The graffiti phenomenon is a great example. The tagger will say, "I'm not doing anything wrong. I'm just exercising my right of free speech." Unfortunately for him, society for the most part doesn't see it that way.

Yes ... the lady in polka dots. What's your question for the senator?

Yes, sir, I would like to follow up on the previous gentleman's question. I ...

Would you care to state your name?

Oh, yes, My name is Leanne Elders. I heard you agree with everything the previous gentleman said, but sayin' that you can't speak for every member of Congress--only for yourself--jus' don't cut it with me. So my question is this ... who was you speakin' for when you said--in public--that government-run health care would mean pullin' the plug on Grandma? I think it's shameful for an adult in your position to think that we out here in voter land are jus' too stupid to know where lies come from. An' then, y'see, you went on t'say that pullin' the plug would be doin' health care like they do in Europe. Well that's another lie, Senator, so now you been caught in two different lies

The tagger needs educating, as do some conservative wing-nuts who believe in a God-given "right to make a profit," apparently even when those profits are driven by life-and-death decision making as practiced by those who have neither the shame nor the decency to comply with the basic norms of society ... showing just how far off the beaten path our duly elected "crooks and liars" can be drawn by the smell of money. It's the shameless bureaucrat who, by assuming the mantle of guiltless infallibility, can turn to you and say, "I'm not doing anything wrong. These people are going to die anyway, so don't blame me for their problems."

No! I've not had my say, Senator! What I'm sayin' now is, you apparently checked your conscience at the door this evenin'. You go an' get yourself a replay of a program on 60 Minutes--June of this year I think it was--where Leslie Stahl sat in hospital rooms with patients dyin' of cancer. These people was layin' in their beds an' sayin' things like, "It's hopeless--I'm gonna die," all for the simple reason that their insurance coverage had run out in the middle of their chemotherapy. There's your death panel, Senator--the insurance industry. So. forget about Europe. They don't have nothin' like the kind of murder boards we got, so what you doin' talkin' about killin' grandma by puttin' government bureaucrats in charge of health care? How can you even pretend we don't condone murder in this country?

Indeed the speaker touches on something quite profound with the mention of conscience. Shame and conscience are related, yet with a subtle difference. Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia describes "conscience," the noun, as "A knowledge or sense of right and wrong," and interestingly, shamelessness as the incapacity for such knowledge, with those so affected being described as "immodest, corrupt, immoral, intemperate, debauched, drunken, profligate, villainous, knavish, degraded, reprobate, diabolical, indecent, indelicate, lewd, vulgar, impure, unclean, fleshly, carnal, sinful and wicked." That about covers it, I think.

I'll sit down when I've finished, Senator! Y'see, we's already established the fact that you don't speak for yourself--more like you got a twin brother out there I guess--so next you got t'tell me you can't speak for Big Insurance, neither, ain't that right? ... meanin' you can jus' take all that guilt an' pass it on t'someone else ... us, for example. Well as a legislator who wants t'kill health care for the people, that makes you guilty of "high crimes and misdemeanors," along with the rest of your cronies back there in Washington. Y'see, unlike you, Senator, there's one thing I don't do, an' that's lie!

Fictionalized accounts of actual events are fine for this discussion only because we have people in Congress who haven't lived a day, apparently, in the real world. I name you, Senator Grassley, as one of them. You don't even need to articulate the actual words--the real world can, instead, speak for you. You've entangled yourself in a web of shamelessness, which is the only way, judging by how my generation was raised, that one can justify lie upon lie upon lie and still manage to fall asleep peacefully at night.


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The following comments are for "Where's the Shame?"
by fritzwilliam

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