Perspective: How We Become Who We Are

Dec 2, 2019

A few days ago, I posed this question to my students: “How much could another person come to know about you by both looking through your phone and knowing who your friends are?” Their answer was no surprise: a lot! 


That brings me to a man who is likely unknown to most Americans: Roy Cohn. Cohn died in 1986, but his unsavory shadow still casts a pall across this country’s political landscape. 


Cohn first gained notoriety when he became chief counsel for one Senator Joseph McCarthy during the McCarthy hearings in the early 1950s. One would think that would be enough notoriety for one man in a lifetime. But it wasn’t. In the years that followed, Cohn became a political fixer who would not abide by the rules. Those who knew him best knew him to be amoral, a cheat, a liar, and a hypocrite of epic proportions. 


Cohn became closely associated with the Trump family in the early 1970s and is widely credited with mentoring the current president in the anything-goes-to-win approach, regardless of the law, honest business practices or ethics. Trump, in times of strife, is still known to lament, “Where is my Roy Cohn?” That in itself speaks volumes. 


We can no longer afford to elect individuals who may have been profoundly influenced by their own Roy Cohns. But then again, it’s on us to do the homework to ensure we get the government we deserve. And we certainly deserve better than what we have right now. 


I’m Andrew Nelson, and that’s my perspective.