In 1824, the Duke of Wellington — the heroic victor at the Battle of Waterloo — received a blackmail letter from disreputable publisher Joseph Stockdale. Stockdale was threatening to publish the memoirs of a famous courtesan who claimed that Wellington had been one of her many lovers — which was likely true.
Wellington’s response is famous: "Publish and be damned!"
With those words, Wellington proved the truth of a famous quote that hadn’t even been written yet — the line from the movie Gone With the Wind: "With enough courage, you can do without a reputation."
Jeff Bezos — according to Jeff Bezos anyway — summoned his own inner Wellington recently to respond to a blackmail threat from AMI, the owners of the pro-Trump rag National Enquirer. AMI threatened to publish emails and lurid photos Bezos sent, presumably during an extramarital affair. Bezos, of course, is not only the founder of Amazon and the richest man in the world. He’s also the owner of the anti-Trump rag the Washington Post. AMI allegedly wanted the Post to call off an investigation of AMI’s business dealings. Bezos published the embarrassing pics and emails himself and told AMI to pound sand.
Publish and be damned. Good for him. Better to suffer some humiliation than bow to fear and fall silent.
One could have forgiven Bezos for caving in the current unforgiving climate. Just look at the goat rodeo in Virginia. Governor Ralph Northam — who should have been impeached for rationalizing infanticide in a recent radio interview — is instead under fire for a racist photo that appeared in his med school yearbook 30-odd years ago. The Attorney General there may have to quit because he went to a party in blackface in his student days.
Are such actions grounds for resignation? What do they prove except that, in their twenties, these men were insensitive jerks? Are they jerks now? Are they racist? Have they put their offices to racist use? Those questions don’t matter apparently. Virtually every Democrat ever born is calling on Northam to resign. Director Spike Lee, asked if people should be forgiven for such bad actions in their past, answered, "Hell no!"
It’s hard not to feel schadenfreude here. This is the world the Left has created for themselves. Political Correctness is a weapon designed to intimidate and silence conservatives, a way of preventing them from exposing the power-hunger and greed inherent in left-wing policies. To watch Democrats get hoist with this petard is delightful.
But maybe we should make this what those lefties would call a "teachable moment." After all, the mess in Virginia is just further proof that the Bible is right as always when it tells us, "None is righteous, no, not one."
No person is so good he can govern others without strict limits on his powers. No country is so good that its great achievements can’t be tarnished with a recitation of its sins. The best individual on earth has said something or done something that, if exposed, would ruin him. The best nation has committed atrocities. We all need forgiveness.
Individuals should be forgiven for foolish things they said and did that do not represent their present life. Nations should be forgiven sins of history that took place before anyone alive was born. These are basic tenets of our founding faith, and they should not be forgotten, even in this faithless age.
It is one thing to uncover unpunished crimes like murder or rape in a person’s past. But as for sins and stupidities: must we really live in constant fear of exposure to the unforgiving mob?
I say: Publish and be damned. With enough courage, you can live without a reputation.