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Jerome Christenson: Confiteor

Jerome Christenson: Confiteor

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Jerome Christenson

Jerome Christenson

Now, let’s be done with him.

You know who I mean.

Shun him. Like a country full of outraged Amish elders. Speak not to him nor of him. Let him blither and blather unheard, unacknowledged, unmentioned. Pay no attention. Pull the curtain. Walk away.

Ignore him.

Even better, give him up for Lent.

It’s a long standing custom, to mark Christianity’s traditional 40 days of reflection and repentance by abjuring a practice or habit we know not to be good for us. Growing up I regarded with some sympathy the kids enrolled at St. Mary’s school struggling to go six weeks without Snicker bars or bubble gum. Later on, my own attempt at giving up smoking for Lent found me sneaking a Marlboro faster than you could recite a couple of Hail Marys and an Apostolic Benediction. Even so, there was virtue in the attempt, in the recognition of weakness and the resolve to do better.

And here, at the outset of this year’s penitential season, we do well to look back at the last few days … weeks … months … heck, the last few years and ’fess up, at least to ourselves, that we’ve been party to a bad thing.

OK, I suppose some folks will say this is preaching to the proverbial choir, but I’m not sure that by now that choir hasn’t become the congregation. For years we’ve all sat back to witness the responsibilities of governance degenerate into so much reality TV — a spectacle that virtually no one found edifying, but an exceptional number were willing to publicly excuse, despite private misgiving.

It’s time we all face up to what we are perhaps loath to confess … an awfully large part of the last five years has been, for folks on all sides, a guilty pleasure. Oh yeah, I do mean all of us. All of us who hung on every tweet, eager to purse our lips, shake our heads and cluck in self-satisfied indignation like a basement full of church ladies surveying Mildred’s misshapen angel food cake. Good progressive folk had a shining star example of how truly bad the other side was and gloated over it without shame or reservation. Being good was never so easy, never felt so good.

But there is a darker side to that self-righteous satisfaction. There on the flip side is the secret joy we all feel when some loudmouth fool gets up on their soapbox to spout loud and proud the shameful thoughts we nurture in the darker recesses of the soul. We may publicly suppress the impulse to join the sieg heil!, but it’s there and we’re not unhappy to see the spectacle keep going and going.

Until it goes too far.

We all heard the same lecture on the playground … “It’s all fun until somebody gets hurt…” Well, more than just somebody got hurt, we’ve all been hurt. We’ve let ourselves get so wrapped up in playground turf battles, meme wars and manufactured outrage we’ve let half a million Americans die while we argued that wearing a mask was equivalent to being sent to the Gulag.

Enough is enough. For this Lent, let’s give him — and all the pleasures of adoring or abhorring him — up. Let’s look back to the past half-decade and confess there is responsibility there for each of us “in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault…”

And resolve to do better.

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