A Columnist Who Gets It.
Jeffry Gardner, Albuquerque Tribune
Self-indulgent nation needs to steer away from moral relativism
During the 1992 presidential debates, there was a moment of absurdity that so defied the laws of absurdity that even today when I recall it, I just shake my head.
It was during the town hall “debate” in Richmond, Va., between the first President Bush and contenders Bill Clinton and Ross Perot.
A grown man – a baby boomer – took the microphone from the moderator, Carol Simpson of ABC News, and said, in a fashion: You’re the president, so you’re like our father, and we’re your children.
See? My head’s shaking already. Where did that come from? Would a grown man have told a president something like that 100 years ago – or 50?
We’ve got our wires crossed, and our ability to accept responsibility for our lives – once so ingrained in our American nature that President Kennedy felt comfortable telling us to “ask not what your country can do for you” – has been short-circuited. We’ve slouched en masse into an almost-childlike outlook: You’re the president, so you’re like our father.
The fact that an adult – on national television, no less – would say this and later be interviewed as though he’d spoken some profound truth struck me then, as now, as more than a little absurd. It was alarming.
That attitude certainly hasn’t abated over the past 12 years. In fact, that helpless, innocent-child routine has crept into nearly all aspects of our culture. It’s played a significant role, I believe, in moving us toward what newly elected Pope Benedict XVI called a “dictatorship of relativism.”
Relativism, Benedict explained, is a world view “which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”
Anyone who has ever set foot in a toy store with a 6-year-old understands where I’m heading with this. At 6, it’s only natural to view the world as a place created to meet your wants. As adults, though, we’re expected to grow up.
In the process, we’re not only asked to accept self-restraint, but we’re also supposed to recognize that boundaries – moral absolutes, if you will – work for the betterment of our society. With maturity comes discipline, charity and sanity.
An ideological fissure is racing like splintering ice on a frozen lake, dividing progressives and conservatives today. Conservatives say progressives have lifted the “if it feels good, do it” mantra into an ideology worth defending at the polls and in the courts – and damn the social consequences.
There’s an AIDS epidemic, but we’ll fight to keep the bathhouses open. We support the First Amendment, but we’ll shred the Boy Scouts’ right to free association. We oppose the war but support the troops, and on and on.
These dissonant ideas are held together by moral relativism, a dangerous ideology that should come with a label: Warning! Total self-indulgence may be harmful to your society.
(Hat tip to Jerry Scharf at Common Sense and Wonder)