The Puritans of New England found a way to publicly shame transgressors of their standards. They put people in the public square in this device seen above. Passersby could scold, berate or shame the offenders. I remember learning of this in school and being very grateful that this practice was extinct.
The other day at the gym I noticed a headline on a television about “fat shaming.” Because the mute was on, I have no idea what the story was about. However, it made me realize that in our internet obsessed, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram bathed culture we have managed to reinstitute public shaming. From the woman who took a picture of another woman in a locker room and posted it saying the woman was “disgustingly fat,” to the refusal of a waitress to serve a member of the White House press office, we have managed to use public shaming to wound others once more.
Shaming others seems to be a great way to feel superior. “At least I would never(fill in the blank) like that person. We have found ways to shame others for their looks, their opinions, their religious beliefs and their language. We can act as informants without even leaving home, by just snapping a picture and posting it. We can look at magazines at the checkout stands of the grocery store which take delight in shaming celebrities.
We can maintain that we are far removed from our Puritan forebears, but we delude ourselves. Shaming is cowardly, whether done in person or on line. Let’s call it out when we hear it. But let’s not shame the person who’s doing the shaming. How about simply “that isn’t very kind?”