The Grapes of Shame

In the aftermath of World War II, several eminent psychologists of the day, including Erich Fromm and Alice Miller, wrote books that all asked the question, “Why?”  They wanted to find the core psychological forces that had taken Germany, the most civilized nation on earth, to being one of the most brutal and murderous.

I would like to offer something a little similar in the here and now.

There are many comedy TV shows that make money by making fun of the ignorance that abounds in America today.   It is tempting to take some superior-feeling pleasure, when folks from Comedy Central go to a Trump Rally and ask the attendees questions like “Can you define communism?” and just generally expose their many layers of fuzzy logic.

I think we indulge in this at our peril.  Just because many of these people lack language skills, does not mean that we should not try to understand the deeper meaning of their admittedly often hurtful language and symbolism.

When I was in grade school, I was given three “F” grades. Even though I was generally a “top” student with a better than 4.0 grade average, those rare memories, of being given an “F,” still cut deep. They were insults to my spirit; a person who had the power and authority of the “state” was judging me as being somehow inferior.

If just 3 “F” grades left that much of a resentment mark on me, a star student, what must it be like for the average C student kid, who is told every day that they are defective, flawed, in error, and judged to be a failure and stupid?

The point I wish to make here is, in all of our lofty disdain for all those who dwell in the basket of deplorables, perhaps we should lay some blame at the feet of the learned and educated.  It is college graduates, i.e., grade school teachers, who subject people to a state mandated system that repeatedly rends their spirit.  And they do this, perhaps with the best of intentions, but without any regard for the long term consequences.

Definition of grapes of wrath:
an unjust or oppressive situation, action, or policy that may inflame desire for vengeance : an explosive condition

So now, look at the oh so common disdain for science, or the disdain for the “elite.”    Instead of condemning those who manifest these attitudes, perhaps we should think  about HOW their minds were systemically brought to this state, where years of accumulated shame energy is eclipsing their ability to think rationally.

If you just leap to the convenient, appealing, and simplistic conclusion that the reason they behave this way is because you and I are just genetically superior to them, we are one step away from the Nuremberg Laws.  Oopsie.

Whenever you see a seemingly ignorant Trump supporter, take a moment to remind yourself that each and every one of them represents an expenditure of about $100,000 in local tax dollars for their K-12 education (not to mention over 15,000 hours of classroom time). If they are ignorant, is it really entirely their fault? Can it be that the cultural imperialism of the educational industrial complex is creating this ready-made seething mob, by putting masses of people through shaming / belittling / exclusionary experiences in their formative years? How many times can you give someone an F before they turn on you, and give you an F as well?

It’s always easy to blame someone else for our problems, but it looks like, as Walt Kelly so famously said,

“We have met the enemy– and he is us.”

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