I consider Dinesh D’Souza to be a thoroughly despicable figure in American public life. My view is shared by, well, anyone who has taken the time to become familiar with D’Souza’s statements and writings going back thirty years. The disgraceful bits certainly include D’Souza’s scurrilous attacks on President Obama shown in the sham documentary 2016.
Now D’Souza the self-avowed Christian moralist is entangled in some sex scandal that involves a relationship with a much-younger woman while he is separated from (but still legally married to) his wife. For this reason and others, he’s had to resign his million-dollar-a-year presidency of The King’s College.
Many of my friends are having fun on twitter and elsewhere clucking about it. I totally get that. I’m still not joining the snark.
In 1942, 1962, or 1982, there was genuine value in noting the many examples of conservative moralists who turn out to be hypocrites on matters of homosexuality, pornography, substance use, mistress’s abortions, and other matters. Sure, I would have outed avowed segregationist Strom Thurmond who fathered a child with an African-American woman who was one of the domestic help. But okay it’s 2012, guys. We know these stories already.
I’ve spent many years working on interventions for individuals trying to avoid or to recover from harmful behaviors that damage their lives and hurt people they love. In many cases, these behaviors are made more difficult to address by their furtiveness. Maybe it’s the upright Rotarian or the inner-city high school student who runs needless HIV risks because he’s in the closet. Maybe it’s the young mother struggling with a mental health problem who is too ashamed to seek help. Maybe it’s the heroin user trying to get clean, who, afraid to admit he has relapsed, shoots up alone in a hotel room, overdoses, and dies.
Dinesh D’Souza is an awful person. His misdemeanor sexual hypocrisies are far from his most surprising or his most damning character traits. I think we should resist the ugly pack mentality, which creates a permission structure for gleeful cruelty. Several years ago, Idaho’s conservative GOP Senator Larry Craig was arrested after apparently soliciting sex in an airport men’s room. He was treated with a palpable lack of humanity by many people across the political spectrum. I never thought much of Larry Craig. That episode still bothers me. The planet would have continued to rotate had Craig’s (mostly Republican) Senate colleagues allowed him to quietly retire rather than to railroad him out.
In The Human Stain, Philip Roth noted the dehumanization that accompanies manufactured scandal, suggesting that President Clinton should have hung a banner from the White House saying “A human being lives here.” Wise words, there. We will create a more humane society by treating each other with kindness and humanity. We won’t accomplish this goal by responding vindictively when a political adversary–even one as loathsome as Dinesh D’Souza–is unmasked as a somewhat hypocritical and imperfect human being. Many of us are.