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3 Reasons Why Shouting “Shame” is Not Shameful

It’s part of being a good activist.


Today I was talking to my girls about shouting “shame” at ceasefire actions and other protests. “You like it, don’t you?” they asked.


Well . . . do I?


Most recently, I’ve engaged in shaming the IDF for shooting at, bombing, and cutting off medical supplies for civilians in Gaza; and the U.S. Senate or specifically Chuck Schumer specifically for spearheading the voting for billions of dollars in funding for the IDF to continue doing the same.

Right now, we are engaged in a massive effort to protect Rafah as the last refuge from the IDF, and that includes tearing Biden and the U.S. Government away from the grip of AIPAC.


I’ve never had to be so specific, though.


I’ve protested for and against everything from racism gun violence to climate change, women’s rights, and Donald Trump. And Donald Trump. There’s so much shame to go around.


The one truth I can reveal right now is that there is a certain thrill to shaming your adversary. Not that it is fun. We are not in it to enjoy ourselves.


But we do want to succeed in the ultimate goal around which shaming is a part.

Let’s break down three cases in the efficacy of shaming.

Honestly, for some of these people who are exemplars, all I had to do was type in their names, and my computer shouted “Shame, Shame, Shame” right back at me.


But I will elaborate. For the sake of illustration.


I’ve protested for and against everything from racism gun violence to climate change, women’s rights, and Donald Trump. And Donald Trump. There’s so much shame to go around.


The one truth I can reveal right now is that there is a certain thrill to shaming your adversary. Not that it is fun. We are not in it to enjoy ourselves.


But we do want to succeed in the ultimate goal around which shaming is a part.


Let’s break down three cases in the efficacy of shaming.

Honestly, for some of these people who are exemplars, all I had to do was type in their names, and my computer shouted “Shame, Shame, Shame” right back at me.


But I will elaborate. For the sake of illustration.


Case 1: The price of a meal is 10,000 immigrant children.


“Shame!” shouted the protesters.


“End family separation!”


“Abolish ICE!”


It was June 20, 2018, and the Trump administration was in the habit of separating children who entered the country illegally from their parents at the MEXICAN border and putting them in cages where they slept under foil blankets with overhead lighting that was kept on 24/7.


Help reunite 10,000 children with their families, or eat a taco?


Shame!


Case 2: Don’t mess with justice — or with these two Justins and their friend Gloria.

On March 27, 2023, three students and three adults were shot and killed by “a heavily armed” former student at the Covenant School in Nashville.


Well, wait.



It gets worse.


And more . . . shameful.



“Shame!” shouted the protesters.

“End family separation!”

“Abolish ICE!”


It was June 20, 2018, and the Trump administration was in the habit of separating children who entered the country illegally from their parents at the MEXICAN border and putting them in cages where they slept under foil blankets with overhead lighting that was kept on 24/7.


Help reunite 10,000 children with their families, or eat a taco?


Shame!


Case 2: Don’t mess with justice — or with these two Justins and their friend Gloria.


On March 27, 2023, three students and three adults were shot and killed by “a heavily armed” former student at the Covenant School in Nashville.


Well, wait.



It gets worse.


And more . . . shameful.


These are exactly the types of circumstances that organizations such as Sandy Hook Promise and Everytown for Gun Safety have been working for years to prevent.


But the force is powerful in places like Tennessee where close ties in the legislature to the NRA have kept concealed weapons laws and handgun restrictions at bay.


The below is a case in point. Click to see the truth. Read on to meet our heroes.



<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Chuck &amp; I are heartbroken to hear about the shooting at Covenant School in Nashville.<br> <br>My office is in contact with federal, state, &amp; local officials, &amp; we stand ready to assist.<br> <br>Thank you to the first responders working on site. Please join us in prayer for those affected.</p>&mdash; Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) <a href="https://twitter.com/MarshaBlackburn/status/1640393989516931072?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 27, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>


On April 6, Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and Gloria Johnson attempted to be the voices of their constituents, to speak out against gun violence, and to argue for stricter regulations. Their efforts met with a move to expel them all from the House.


Jones and Pearson, who are both Black, were expelled. The vote for Johnson, who is white, did not receive enough votes to expel her.


It is shameful that in these “houses” of representatives, places where we place our faith in the system, that trust is being stolen from us. Justin Jones writes and speaks like an angel in expressing this most horrible of truths.


We called for you to ban assault weapons, and you responded with an assault on abolishing democracy.

The announcement of the Justins’ ousting(s) was met with shouts of “Shame!” by the angry audience of families who had come seeking justice.


Students confronted state police, waging a protest of their own and staging a “die-in.”




We did not know that Columbine would be the first of so many horrific incidents of school-based gun violence.


But the numbers are staggering, and it is shameful that when people such as Jones and Pearson attempt to help move the needle of prevention, they are hampered by those with something to gain by maintaining the status quo.


Shame!

  1. Since the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, more than 338,000 students in the U.S. have experienced gun violence at school.4

  2. There were more school shootings in 2022–46 — than in any year since Columbine. This mirrored America’s broader rise in gun violence as it emerged from the pandemic.4 However, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security research shows that if we “know the signs” of gun violence, we can prevent it and reverse the trend.5

  3. In 2022, 34 students and adults died while more than 43,000 children were exposed to gunfire at school. 4



Case 3: “These were not made in the basement with love.” Huh?

Just as we cannot believe that politicians would fund the mass murder of children in Gaza, that they would separate children from their parents and make them live in cages for months on end, and that they would refuse to protect children from gun violence when they should be learning, I found this next thing hard to accept.


Still do.


On October 6, 2018, Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court was confirmed but not before he had been accused by three women of sexual abuse. One woman, Blasey Ford testified before a Senate committee that had delayed the confirmation hearing for a few days, but not

surprisingly the committee didn’t side with her.


Demonstrators were in full force on Capitol Hill, at one point focusing their sites on Senator Joe

Manchin, hoping to get him to vote against the confirmation.


When they learned of his vote of support, they surrounded his office, shouting “Shame!”

It didn’t work. But all of the protesting did trouble one very unpresidential President #45.

Before his advisors got Trump to agree to stop Tweeting for a second, he shared this:

Before the confirmation vote, one woman confronted Jeff Flake in an elevator as he was making his way to the Senate floor. She told him she was a sexual assault survivor and explained that his voting for Kavanaugh was essentially ignoring people like her. Flake, previously resolved to cast his vote in favor of Kavanaugh, pulled a . . . flake, had the vote postponed, and instigated an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh’s activities.


It was not reported that the woman in the elevator, activist Ana Maria Archila, shouted “Shame!” at Flake, and we cannot prove any correlation between Manechin’s “screamers” and Flake’s. But one can only assume there was an element of doubt, compassion, or shame in Flake’s decision to hold off the vote.


If you recall, Flake had no more favors to give or ask of anyone in Congress. This was the end of his final term.


Archila thinks that it was all the activism that helped sway Flake’s mind. I’d like to agree.


What I do know is that Kavanaugh had no right to accept the nomination that Trump had no right offering him. He has no right to sit on that bench.


Shame on both of them.


Who is shame really for? The shamer or the shamee?

Shame is most definitely a tool used as part of an effort to effect change. It is for the shamee to be made aware of the error of their ways.


James Devitt’s 2015 article “Is Shame Too Mean or a Tool for Change?” introduces a key concept from Jennifer Jacquet’s book Is Shame Necessary? New Uses for an Old Tool (Pantheon, 2015).


In her work on environmental activism, Jacquet determined that people could use shame to change the behavior of big corporations and governments.


She distinguishes shame from guilt as follows, even insisting that shame is more “useful.”

A few other interesting things that Jacquet points out:


  • We hold individuals more accountable than we do groups.

  • Publicly traded companies tend to be more responsive than privately held ones (who can just wait it out).

  • Shaming can sometimes backfire if the community ends up somehow identifying with the person being shamed. (Our mayoral example above)


Although Jacquet’s work focuses on environmental activism, I do believe there is a transfer. One example she cites is when the men in the town of Silverton, Oregon turned out in women’s clothing to counter-protest members of the community who had shamed the first openly transgender mayor.


Shame on the shamers, maybe?


Am I ashamed of all my shaming to date?

No!


Not at all.


I only wish there were nothing to shout “Shame!” about.

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As of January 2024, Rewriting Paradigms is back and I'm writing about today's  issues, those that most test us and our humanity.

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