PanamaTimes

Sunday, Jun 16, 2024

The Sad Tales of George Santos

The Sad Tales of George Santos

What would it be like to be so ashamed of your life that you felt compelled to invent a new one?
Most of us don’t feel compelled to do that. Most of us take the actual events of our lives, including the failures and frailties, and we gradually construct coherent narratives about who we are.

Those autobiographical narratives are always being updated as time passes — and, of course, tend to be at least modestly self-flattering.

But for most of us, the life narrative we tell both the world and ourselves gives us a stable sense of identity.

It helps us name what we’ve learned from experience and what meaning our life holds. It helps us make our biggest decisions.

As the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre once observed, you can’t know what to do unless you know what story you are a part of.

A reasonably accurate and coherent autobiographical narrative is one of the most important things a person can have. If you don’t have a real story, you don’t have a real self.

George Santos, on the other hand, is a young man who apparently felt compelled to jettison much of his actual life and replace it with fantasy.

As Grace Ashford and Michael Gold of The Times have been reporting, in his successful run for Congress this year he claimed he had a college degree that he does not have.

He claimed he held jobs that he did not hold. He claimed he owned properties he apparently does not own. He claims he never committed check fraud, though The Times unearthed court records suggesting he did.

He claims he never described himself as Jewish, merely as adjacently “Jew-ish.” A self-described gay man, he hid a yearslong heterosexual marriage that ended in 2019.

All politicians — perhaps all human beings — embellish. But what Santos did goes beyond that. He fabricated a new persona, that of a meritocratic superman.

He claims to be a populist who hates the elites, but he wanted you to think he once worked at Goldman Sachs. Imagine how much inadequacy you’d have to feel to go to all that trouble.

I can’t feel much anger toward Santos for his deceptiveness, just a bit of sorrow. Cutting yourself off to that degree from the bedrock of the truth renders your whole life unstable.

Santos made his own past unreliable, perpetually up for grabs. But when you do that you also eliminate any coherent vision of your future.

People may wonder how Santos could have been so dumb. In political life, his fabrications were bound to be discovered.

Perhaps it’s because dissemblers often have trouble anticipating the future; they’re stuck in the right now.
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