The red coat syndrome

The head of a pension plan loses his job because he got a vaccine shot on foreign soil. A veteran journalist is told to resign because of something he may or may not have said two years ago. A governor undergoes an independent inquiry because of complaints by two former staffers. And Charlie Rose is toast. I miss him still.
Welcome to the cancel culture where your life’s work and reputation can be destroyed in an instant. What has happened to us? Where is the forgiveness factor that used to be more freely given? Meanwhile, a former president continues to command adoration from millions of followers who can’t swallow enough of his lies.
It’s easy to blame social media for the cancel culture because it is an active and faceless foe. But that very ability to attack without evidence by repeating someone else’s allegations affords a protective shield no police force could match. The whole thing reminds me of the woman accused of adultery in The Scarlet Letter, shunned by society, living in a cottage in the woods. In those earlier times, failing to meet the community’s standards was so unusual it was fodder for a book. These days, it seems like there are fresh outings on every newscast.
When I was about ten, a bunch of us decided we’d pepper a passing car with snowballs. In our exuberance, we broke a window, but I was the only one who got caught. The driver identified me by my distinctive red coat. I paid for the damage over time from my weekly allowance. I never ratted out any other perpetrator.
Ever since, I’ve tended to be on the side of someone who pays the price while others go free. I know what it’s like, on a small scale, to be sure. Maybe that’s why the cancel culture is such an anathema. I detest the crowing that ensues when someone comes a cropper. Hasn’t everyone done or said something wrong? Maybe many times over? They just haven’t got caught.

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