It was a surge of Jewish shame that years ago led to one of the largest demonstrations of Israeli Jews in Israels history. They were demonstrating against the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps in Lebanon. The killings were committed by Lebanese Christian militias, but they took place while Israel occupied that area of Lebanon.
It would seem, then, that group shame is a good thing.
There are at least three reasons:
1. It is maturing. Only children think only well of themselves. A group that only expresses pride is essentially a group of children.
2. If one expresses group pride, one is morally obligated to express group shame. Obviously, this does not apply to any person who does not identify with, let alone take pride in being a member of, a group.
3. If only the majority group is expected to express shame, then only the majority group is expected to be governed by rules of morality. It is, ironically, the highest moral compliment to Americas white Christians that they are the only American group of whom expressions of shame are expected. It means more is morally expected of them than of anyone else.
The relative absence of expressions of shame in the Muslim world over the atrocities committed in Islams name is an example of the above. The labeling of blacks who express shame over disproportionate rates of violent crime and out-of-wedlock births in the black community as Uncle Toms is another. The absence of any expression of shame in the gay community over the current blacklisting -- and attempts to economically destroy -- anyone who donated to the California proposition defining marriage as between a man and a woman is another example. When Sen. Joseph McCarthy blacklisted people in Hollywood for real or alleged support for the Communist Party, he was finally shut up with the words, Have you no shame, sir?
Expressing group shame when morally necessary is not airing dirty linen or giving solace to ones ideological enemies. It is, rather, one of the highest expressions of moral development. And it is therefore universally applicable. Being a minority doesnt exempt its members from moral responsibility. It will be a great day for America and the world when minorities begin to express shame as well as pride. In fact, there is real pride in expressing shame. Minorities should give it a try.
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”