What if Truth is Punishment Enough?
Say it all together: It’s an outrage.
We need no exclamation point, no caps, no boldface type. Outrage is the simple truth of it. Roger Stone, charged with seven felonies, found guilty on all counts, will serve no time.
Stone lied to Congress and the FBI about conspiring with a hostile foreign government to help a deeply venal man become the President of the United States. That man’s proudly racist attitudes, bloviating insecurity, and self-absorbed incompetence have done more damage to our country than most of us imagined possible.
Roger Stone did not get him elected single-handedly, but his well-timed manipulations greased the skids for a kleptocracy of staggering corruption. And he knew what he was doing. And he smiled while he was doing it.
How guilty was he? So guilty, even William Barr agreed he ought to be locked up. Ponder. That.
And finally, when he was on the verge of making his long-overdue acquaintance with the truth of justice, his unabashed chicanery paid off. His sentence was commuted by the very criminal his crimes were done to benefit.
It is, indeed, an outrage. If only we were shocked enough to scream the way we ought at such distilled depravity.
We cannot, however. First, because we need to save our energy for coping with the next outrage we surely will experience, which might be more important in the larger scheme of things. (Indeed, it could be argued that the more momentous shock came almost simultaneously, when the Attorney General replaced the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York with someone sympathetic to the interests of the Trump regime.)
And secondly, because there is no point in screaming every time the nation takes one on the chin. We’d wear our voices out, and we have better things to do with them.
Sometimes the bad guys win. And when the bad guys have done favors for the Don — that is, the President — sometimes means all too often.
So let’s all take a deep breath. And another. It’s just another outrage, in intensity somewhere between “fine people on both sides” and kids in cages. No, it isn’t going to be okay, not on my watch. But consider this:
Before we get too caught up in the horror of it all, before we sink into the altogether too familiar funk that comes of watching brazen evil be rewarded yet again, let’s pause to think about the world that Roger Stone is free once more to roam.
He has escaped the law. He will not go to prison. Some will say that means he got away with what he did. I disagree.
The whole world knows the truth, that Stone is a convicted felon and a traitor to his country.
Yes, he has his fortune, though substantially diminished now by legal fees. He will live in luxury until he dies.
And yes, he has his friends, fellow toadies of the Don and other friends such as will always be available to multimillionaires. Not everybody cares about a person’s moral character, and some applaud the way he sold our country down the river. As long as he is careful of his guest list, he can probably keep hosting parties in his mansion every weekend.
But how much will he dare go out in public? How many times will he endure the curses — overheard or in his face — from random strangers, and the undisguised contempt in eyes of countless others, before he opts to hide at home forever?
Think how that will gall him. Everybody recognized the dapper prankster strutting down the sidewalk, jaunty in his notoriety. Now, though, garbed in turncoat’s infamy, in which there is nothing whatsoever cute or charming, I doubt he still shall thrill the way he used to at heads turning everywhere he goes.
Knowing how the world regards him, as he will in time if he does not already, will he not at some point come to know that he has earned the deep disgust that he engenders in the rest of us?
Donald Trump and Roger Stone and many of their ilk are rich because — let’s face it — crime does pay. But would you wish to be them, to exist in their transactional universe, where people love you only for the favors you can do them, a world where honor is a joke, where everything and everybody is for sale?
Trump knows he’s a loser. He has known it since his childhood, known as an adult that he was only rich on other people’s money, known he was elected accidentally to do a job that he could never understand. Sad to say, I don’t believe that he possesses the capacity to comprehend what leaders in the wider world perceive, how he mocks the very concept of good breeding. My urge to pity him is constantly at war with my awareness of his crimes against humanity.
But Stone, moral bankrupt though he be, retains sufficient comprehension to be shamed, shamed by the truth of his misdeeds, shamed that now the whole world knows that truth. Not for all the gold in Fort Knox could I bear to look at his face in my mirror.