With the sentencing of Michael Cohen this week and his statement to the judge before his punishment was pronounced, my mind wandered back to an incident from childhood that I hadn’t thought about in years.
I had reached the age, maybe twelve or so, when I was allowed to ride my bike up to the Green Acres shopping center, which was less than a mile from where we lived. On this particular day, I probably wandered through the Skillern’s drug store, maybe looked at Matchbox cars at the Tyler Toy House, or browsed around the TG&Y. But it was when I went into Regan’s that the real story began.
You might think the sight of a young boy in a ladies’ shop would have raised eyebrows, but Mother took me with her when she shopped so that I knew the saleswomen at most of the stores. So the only eyebrow that was raised was my own when I saw that ring—a coiled serpent with red crystals for eyes, there on the counter. It was the most beautiful and beguiling thing I’d ever seen. Something Cleopatra might have had, or at least Elizabeth Taylor. That little snake tempted me so sorely that it was in my pocket and I was out of the store before you could say “petty larceny.”
And since I wasn’t Rhoda Penmark, the real “bad seed,” I didn’t hide my ill-gotten jewelry in a treasure box like it was Claude Daigle’s penmanship medal. No, I came up with some cockamamie story about having found the ring so that I could actually wear it. Naturally, Mother saw the ring and saw through my story. In fact, the manager at Regan’s may very well have seen me take it and called Mother to let her know. (That was back in the day when all adults were in cahoots with each other.)
Mother pressed until she got the truth out of me, and then she picked up the phone and called the store. She let the manager know that we were on our way there to return the ring. She then took me back to the scene of the crime, where I had to admit what I had done and apologize. I blubbered through the whole embarrassing episode.
When we got back home, Mother told me she wouldn’t tell Daddy what I had done because there was no point in visiting her disappointment in me on him. That brought on another blubbering spell, as the worst thing imaginably would be shaming Daddy in any way.
It was a meaningful day for me. I learned about right and wrong, and I discovered that greed and covetousness can lead to some really bad decisions. And I found out about the power of shame.
So when I’ve read and gone over the words Mr. Cohen spoke before the judge about his now-admitted crimes, I find myself stumbling over his words defining his weakness as a “blind loyalty to Donald Trump.” And while I have no doubt of his deep regret for what he did, perhaps three years in prison will allow him to reflect more closely on his real weakness.
By his own admission, Mr. Cohen knew what he was doing was wrong. That can hardly be called “blind.” When any of us do something just a tad bit wrong because we think something just a tad bit good (for us) will come of it, there’s nothing blind about that.
As we grind through this Trumpian scandal, I suspect we’re likely to see any number of people who “seem” blindly loyal to Trump and who may ultimately claim “blindness” as the reason for their weakness, or their crimes, or whatever they need to excuse. But while Trump may be—and is—a lot of things, he’s not a character out of Greek mythology. The sight of him turns no one to stone or causes their “moral” blindness. In fact, it seems to be quite the opposite. Association with him, regardless of how tangential it may be, reveals more about the person than the Donald.
So, I’m for letting every tub stand on its own bottom. Particularly, when that tub hits bottom.