I want to write about something I think is a problem in our society, that is in fact at the heart of many of our recent scandals, and yet is obscure enough that it doesn’t have a name. It has to do with forgetting who you are. It has to do with refusing to be fully adult and neglecting to take on, each day, the maturity, grace and self-discipline that are expected of adults and part of their job. That job is to pattern adulthood for those coming up, who are looking, always, for How To Do It—how to be a fully formed man, a fully grown woman.
It has to do with not being able to fully reckon with your size, not because it is small but because it is big. I see more people trembling under the weight of who they are.
Laura Ingraham got in trouble for publicly mocking one of the student gun-control activists of Parkland, Fla. She’s been unjustly targeted for boycotts, but it’s fair to say she was wrong in what she said, and said it because she didn’t remember who she is. She is a successful and veteran media figure, host of a cable show that bears her name. As such she is a setter of the sound of our culture as it discusses politics. When you’re that person, you don’t smack around a 17-year-old, even if—maybe especially if—he is obnoxious in his presentation of his public self. He’s a kid. They’re not infrequently obnoxious, because they are not fully mature. He’s small, you’re big. There’s a power imbalance.
As of this week, it is six months since the reckoning that began with the New York Times exposé of Harvey Weinstein. One by one they fell, men in media, often journalism, and their stories bear at least in part a general theme. They were mostly great successes, middle-aged, and so natural leaders of the young. But they treated the young as prey. They didn’t respect them, in part because they didn’t respect themselves. They didn’t see their true size, their role, or they ignored it.
It should not be hard to act as if you are who you are, yet somehow it increasingly appears to be….