In the days following the failure of our flood control system, I was overwhelmed with a mix of emotions: rage, anxiety, despair, grief, determination, and shame. As time has gone on these emotions continue to resurface, and I see them reflected in my fellow New Orleanians and, to a lesser extent, our fellow Americans. Rage. Despair. Grief. Determination. Yet it’s my sense that shame has fallen out of the mix for many of us.

Shame is not a popular emotion in America, it seems. We like to get angry and point the finger at others, but to point it at ourselves? We’d rather not. And that itself is a shame, because feeling ashamed can be a first step toward self-examination and positive transformation.

What do we have to be ashamed of? Plenty.

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