Narcissism is a scourge on our culture. With the recent events of Jussie Smollette and Roger Stone, we need to look at the dangers of ego and how it undermines our cultural identity.
Smollette is accused of staging an attack in an attempt to bolster his paycheck on his career. Smollete drew national attention and appeared on Good Morning America when he was allegedly attacked in Chicago. He claimed that the two men who attacked him spewed racial and homosexual epithets, doused him with bleach and placed a noose around his neck to intimidate him. News outlets reported that Smollette still had the noose around his neck an hour after the incident.
Upon further investigation, police learned that the two men viewed on the surveillance footage were paid over three thousand five hundred dollars to help him with the attack to raise his acting profile and garner more cash for his celebrity cause. Smollette did his part in driving a deeper wedge into the already tenuous race relations in this country.
Smollette’s actions of crying wolf may undermine a potential harm caused to another minority. The next person who calls on the police may not get the same benefit of the doubt. Smollette’s charges were dropped much to the outrage of some critics including Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel and African American Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.
Roger Stone, on the other hand, is one of President Trump’s associates. Stone is accused of “dirty tricks” during the 2016 election. Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has indicted Stone on charges of witness tampering, obstruction of an official proceeding and making false statements to the FBI. Stone’s signature victory pose with his arms in the air looks like he has just won an Olympic medal. It also calls to mind former President Richard Nixon after he resigned in disgrace. Stone loves the attention.
The twenty-four page indictment by Mueller lays out the lies told by Stone in an effort to elect the president and reads like an espionage thriller as it lays out its case against him and his relations with Wikileaks.
Stone later posted a picture of the federal court judge who is presiding over the case with a gun crosshair and has since faced a gag order to silence him before the trial. One can only imagine what Stone’s intentions were in posting this photo, whether it was to elicit sympathy from his followers who believe in “deep state” conspiracy theories or he was just unleashing his anger over the situation. It’s anyone’s guess. Stone took down the post, but the message was made, nonetheless. Stone has done his part in driving a wedge deeper into the political divide in this country.
Both cases undermine law enforcement and have put the safety of individuals at risk. The outrage of extremists and advocates for their respective causes compromises the stability of relations in our country and could lead to crazy conspiracy theorists to do harm to an innocent.
These cases elicit how extreme the dangers of the ego and the measures of one who is concerned with their own reward. Not only do these individuals who have self serving motives impact the criminal justice system by undermining its role and authority, but they compromise how we view one another and respond to one another in an already tense society that is drawn by racial and political lines.
It’s not uncommon these days to hear some in our society claim that America is on the verge of a sort of ideological “civil war” and these cases, in their own way, bear credence to that fact. The reactions from both sides point blame at one side or the other and we get nowhere in moving forward for the sake of the common good.
Scripture is clear about the issues of the ego. The Bible is replete with instances of individuals compromising their integrity in the name of getting what they want. The greatest example is the story of David and Bathsheba. David tries to cover up his affair with a pregnant Bathsheba. When she learns that she is pregnant with David’s baby, David allows the warrior Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, a home leave in hopes that Uriah will sleep with Bathsheba. By doing this, David can make Uriah and others think that the baby is Uriah’s. Uriah’s integrity forbids him to sleep with her, as his allegiance first and foremost is to his outfit, so to solve his problem David sends Uriah off to battle in hopes that he is killed, which he is.
The prophet Nathan reproves David for his indiscretions and David repents. These are life and death circumstances. The prophet recognizes that something needs to be said, so as to remind the people that sins bearing false witness and adultery are not acceptable.
In the New Testament, one of the harshest scenes of Jesus scolding an individual comes when Jesus calls out Peter for his ego. When Jesus foretells of his death and resurrection and tremendous suffering at the hands of the Pharisees, and Peter rebukes him saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you”. 23 But he (Jesus) turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things”. Matthew 16: 22-23.
The powers in the upper echelons of our government are not exempt from this condemnation. Power is enticing. It can make a person take actions that are immoral. Every day in our survival people are making choices that can determine their fate.
Scripture reminds us that everything outs in life. If you take an action that is ultimately made to benefit you over the greater good, it’s going to be made known one way or another. President Abraham Lincoln said, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time”.
Lincoln was astute. He knew that the ego was a stumbling block for unity. He metaphorically applied the message of Jesus’ saying, “A house divided against itself will not stand”. Mark 3:25. Although he was talking about the nation and its divide over the issue of slavery and the preservation of the Union, he was also drawing our attention to integrity.
Our integrity relies on honesty with one another and ourselves — keeping the ego in check. We start with this integrity and begin a conversation looking for common ground. It is the only way our Union can be sustained.