Shame: n. The feeling of humiliation or distress arising from the consciousness of something dishonourable or ridiculous in one’s own or another’s behavior or circumstances, or from a situation offensive to one’s own or another’s sense of propriety or decency. Oxford English Dictionary
You might think a man with three daughters would be hyper-sensitive to issues facing women in the workplace, including unequal pay and sexual harassment, but in the case of Andrew Cuomo, the embattled Governor of New York, you would be wrong. Having three daughters hasn’t curbed Cuomo’s penchant for hitting on women, groping them, kissing them, and other lecherous behavior. Despite compelling and voluminous evidence that he harassed numerous women, Cuomo defiantly asserts his innocence. His Italian heritage is what accounts for his excessive displays of physical affection, he says. All the women who came forward to accuse him are mistaken or exaggerating. He’s a good guy, just misunderstood.
I wonder what Big Daddy Mario thinks of all this? Does he wonder where his boy went wrong?
Suppose one of Cuomo’s daughters came home and told him that her male boss, an older white man in a position of authority, touched her breast or rubbed her backside or kept pestering her to have a date. Would Cuomo be fine with that? Would he write it off as harmless? Would he tell his daughter that she must be misinterpreting her boss’ actions? By all the accounts I’ve read, Andrew Cuomo has always been a bit of a bully and a thug. During the early days of the pandemic, when New York was hit hard and suffering, Cuomo’s stock rose on the strength of the striking contrast between his daily briefings and Trump’s fact-free, rambling, misleading and self-congratulatory monologues. New York, and the nation, looked to some political figure for serious leadership, and there was Cuomo, who in comparison to the petty and whiny President of the United States seemed like a tower of strength and competence. In reality, Cuomo’s leadership on Covid was shockingly poor, as described in a new book by Ross Barken titled The Prince: Andrew Cuomo, Coronavirus, and the Fall of New York. Barkan argues that the actions Cuomo took — and failed to take — resulted in thousands of preventable deaths. So much for competence.
Has the concept of honor lost all meaning in modern America? The smashing of norms was perfected by Donald Trump, but it didn’t start with the King of Mar-A-Lago. Shame no longer has the power to temper boorish or criminal behavior. Josh Hawley, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, Ron Desantis, Andrew Cuomo — no shame, no contrition, no remorse. I wrote a satirical bit on this blog a few years ago (I’ll link it here https://ozongsbalcony.blogspot.com/2019/07/blue-ribbon-president.html) in which Trump had sex with a sheep in the Oval Office and lost not a single acolyte or fan. Even brazen cruelty to animals couldn’t turn the MAGA crowd against Trump. Every one of Trump’s malignant acts, idiotic statements, and cruel policies can be explained away, deflected, or flipped on its head and weaponized in the alternate reality of MAGA world.
I came across this quote while reading The Road Home by Jim Harrison, an American writer who is very underrated in my estimation: “The rich and the upper middle class were now seething with resentment over protecting their position and were demanding an enforceable mono-ethic which was gradually turning the country into a fascist Disneyland.” The Road Home was published in 1998. I’d say the transformation is complete. The mono-ethic is market capitalism.
I received my sample ballot for the recall election of Gavin Newsom. There are 46 would-be governors waiting to take Newsom’s place if the voters of California are lame enough to remove him, including Caitlyn Jenner and Larry Elder. My favorite candidate is a Republican named Denver Stoner. I have no idea who Stoner is or what he stands for, I just love the name, Denver Stoner. There’s the obvious association with cannabis aficionados, but also a strength: Mike Hammer. Jason Bourne. Denver Stoner. I imagine some CIA Director in the middle of a crisis turning to his team and barking, “Get me Denver Stoner.”
The sun beats down. In other parts of California fires rage on. The pandemic has returned on the wings of the Delta variant, and we’re back to taking a mask everywhere. This resurgence belongs to the unvaccinated who refuse for misguided political reasons.