George Santos is, I suspect, ill.
I leave it to psychologists to explain the provenance and pathology of the beleaguered US Congressman’s litany of lies that have driven him into a maelstrom of his own making.
The breathtaking scope and nature of those lies about his education, work, faith and family have understandably made Santos not only a deeply unsympathetic figure, but also raised the possibility that his deceptions may have a more sinister hue.
Santos has duped many people, including, of course, his New York voters who elected him in 2022 by a comfortable margin based on an impressive resume that turns out to be largely fictitious.
Since being exposed as a serial liar, Santos has been the subject of an almost daily diet of stories and comments that, taken together, have delved into his labyrinth of lies in head-shaking detail and suggested that his missing persona is an avatar. of these equally difficult times.
Santos’ lies are so outlandish, and in some ways offensive, that they rival Donald Trump’s myriad lies in their shocking scope and brutality.
That Santos has appropriated the Holocaust and 9/11 in his catalog of outrageous embellishments and exaggerations speaks to the depth of his Trump-like ability to distort the truth to further his parochial political interests and ambition.
He has become venomous, even among many of his Republican colleagues, several of whom have rightly called for Santos to resign.
Santos’ refusal to do so has confirmed his blindness to reality and made him a pariah. That emerged during the lengthy vote to elect Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House of Representatives earlier this month.
At first, Santos sat alone in the room, playing with his phone to pass the time, looking lost and abandoned. Then, after being mocked in the press and on social media, Santos retreated to a front room, only to briefly emerge to support McCarthy to avoid further embarrassment.
It would be easy for me to join the destructive pile, not just to ridicule Santos, but to castigate him for his now-familiar glossary of blatant lies.
At the risk of being fired as a Pollyanna, I instead ask my fourth-grade colleagues and readers to pause and consider that Santos may be suffering from a mental illness that not only explains his deviant behavior, but also our charity, sympathy and understanding.
Yes, our charity, sympathy and understanding.
I’m not going to play amateur psychologist and diagnose the congressman. However, it is clear to me that this troubled young man needs help. I feel sorry for him.
Loneliness – whoever endures it and for whatever reason – should not be fodder for the cruel pleasure of any columnist.
Today much is being written and said about the need to take a more enlightened attitude to mental illness and to recognize how endemic the aches and pains are among all types of people, in all walks of life, including, dare I say, politicians.
Unfortunately, these progressive attitudes often evaporate immediately when a juicy political story makes waves. Then the real, keenly felt human consequences of that reporting become an afterthought, if examined at all.
While I recognize that Santos is the cause of his misfortune and the investigation and possible sanctions that will, predictably, result from his cheating, I have tried to imagine the toll the drop-by-drop revelations and the general national and international exposure. demanding on the congressman’s mind, body and soul.
It can’t be easy.
I hope that despite his many and obvious sins, Santos has a confidant who can direct him to do what is right and honorable.
At this point, Santos chooses to offer qualified, half-hearted apologies and sorry, absurd explanations and rationales to try to appease his critics inside and outside the media.
Taking solace in cable TV villains and trusting that news cycles will inevitably change is a losing strategy that will only exacerbate Santos’ cascading problems.
Santos can regain a certain grace and honesty as he admits that his burgeoning political career is over, offers a sincere apology to his constituents and promises to make serious and tangible amends for all the lies he has told.
But this requires something from Santos that he hasn’t been able to muster until now: a genuine appreciation for what he’s done and why he’s done it.
There are attentive professionals who can only lead Santos to that necessary, if belated, discovery if at some point he chooses to seek them out.
Maybe he will. Perhaps time and distance will give Santos the perspective and insight to also come to terms with his dishonorable past and present.
Santos alluded to such introspection when he said that some of his lies stemmed from the “fragility of being human”.
His confession struck me as a glimmer of candor amid the cobweb of lies that Santos has woven to create an attractive and accomplished character who doesn’t exist but was rewarded with a coveted seat in Congress.
Until Santos musters the will, courage and strength to do the right thing, for the right reasons, at the right time, he will continue to bathe himself in shame and discredit.
Still, we do well to remember that anyone, given the chance and encouragement, is capable of change, even George Santos.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial view of Al Jazeera.