Ever since my Wabi Sabi group met to talk about scandals, I’ve been thinking a little more than usual about what’s forbidden, off the map, and off limits. In talking with friends, looking at news clips, and catching the facebook stream lately, it seems clear that scandals R us, or at least something that helps define who we are and how we got here. Yet how we define scandal is often in the eyes of the scandalized or scandalers.
Without spilling anyone’s beans, I’ve read, glimpsed and heard about scandals involving the wrong sweetheart at the right time, the right sweetheart at the wrong time, the one who got away, the one everyone else thought was the one but who actually wasn’t, the one swapped for another one, what can be done with certain vegetables, the garden variety sexual escapades or titillations, various decisions that result in jail time or near jail time, things taken when they shouldn’t have been, things not given when they should have been, life-giving adventures that were against all the rules, community missteps that broke all the hearts, heartbreaks that communities deemed scandals and used as justification to act badly, and many stories involving silences and silencing.
Facebook is full of posts lately about the Susan G. Komen’s unfortunate decision not to fund Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer screenings. To bow to pressure from right-wing forces to do the wrong thing? Scandalous. Or if, as some people report, this is a decision motivated by profit over people, it’s scandalous in a different way. JC Penney’s decision to keep Ellen as its spokesperson? Not scandalous to me, but seriously scandalous to the conservative organization pushing for her outster.
The scandals on a larger level kind of level us daily: greed overtaking community concern, in-fighting stagnating congress, or a combination of exhaustion, fear and pressure to produce creating giant sinkholes in the economy or government or educational system.
But what’s been interesting me lately is how our personal scandals (and the scandals that affect us personallY) — the times we betray ourselves or our values or our traditions, or are betrayed (because scandal usually involves some kind of betrayal) — shape who we are. A person left to hang in the wind because of a real or projected scandal as well as a person who acts in a way that causes real damage don’t leave the scene without a trace. Looking at our roles in the scandals we’ve participated in, catalyzed or endured can, sometimes as much as the scandal itself, change us or at least the story we think we’re living. And this is where the scandal ends, and the healing begins.