|America's moral values worry everyone
By Alan Caruba
I've always taken some pride in the way I was raised and have striven to conduct my life. I am no moral paragon, but I regard my sins as fairly minor and certainly no problem to anyone around me. My bad habits tend to be a fondness for good cigars, the occasional sip of cream sherry, and indulgences such as a daily dose of ice cream and a bit of candy.
I am, moreover, suspicious of people who harangue the rest of us for our bad behavior when, it seems, they often end up being exposed as hypocrites. That said, I think we need our priests, our pastors, and our rabbis to remind us of how beneficial a life devoted to clean thoughts, good deeds, and proper behavior can be.
My attention was drawn to the issue of morality in America by a Washington Times article titled, "Americans see media aiding moral decline." A group called the Culture and Media Institute of the Media Research Center had released the results of a "National Cultural Values Survey" that concluded the current "culture war" is grounded in "disagreements over religious issues."
Considering that more than a billion of our fellow citizens of planet Earth are Muslim and that a significant portion of them are said to be repulsed by the sexual mores they see in American movies and television, this issue takes on an importance because, if they have their way, a strict interpretation of Islamic or sharia law would be imposed should they succeed in fulfilling their chants of "Death to America."
Sharia law is not merely harsh. It is barbaric.
Of course, they also shout "Death to Israel", the ancient homeland of the Jews whose laws formed the bedrock of Western civilization and ascendancy. The morality we take for granted is the morality set forth in the Old Testament and elaborated upon by the New Testament.
Morality is an issue that is integral to the founding of America because those early fathers of our nation were firm believers in "virtue", a word that was frequently on their lips and in their writings. By virtue they meant the ways individuals behave toward one another and a general, public respect for honesty, personal responsibility, sexual restraint, and a body of benevolent behavior that has a regard for the young, the old, and those less fortunate among us. They were not saints, but they knew and understood the need for proper behavior.
If a modern politician was to discuss virtue today, he would be likely to be laughed out of the room, but all pay it lip service in some fashion. Those deemed to have lived lives of reasonable propriety tend to gain our trust. The misdeeds of those in public office or questing it are a matter of considerable discussion.
How far has America strayed from the values we claim to hold in esteem and in common? A nation of more than 300 million people is bound to have a goodly number of those who transgress. America probably has more people in jail than just about any other nation on earth and the reason must be that we have the least amount of forgiveness for people who break the law. That is surely one measure of morality.
To return, however, to the results of the survey, I am inclined to agree that films and television are major contributors to the decay and decline that is impossible to ignore. Take a look at the typical evening's schedule of programs, whether it is the networks or cable channels.
What passes for situation comedies are rife with sexual references. Dramas seem fixated on the subject and, of course, violence is a constant theme in what passes for our "entertainment." Our news is filled with reports of celebrities and ordinary folk who are arrested as the result of what is often bizarre behavior. A former astronaut pursues her love interest's new girlfriend. A former Playboy centerfold dies under suspicious circumstances. A beauty queen risks her crown for risqué photos.
Debates rage over the redefining of what marriage is despite centuries of the norm that it constitutes the bonding of a man and a woman. Communities try to eliminate the word Christmas or Easter from the celebration of holidays that reach back hundreds of years. The killing of the unborn, decades after a Supreme Court ruling, still enrages those for whom the sanctity of life lies at the heart of their beliefs.
I submit that the day this nation abandons these debates and eliminates the prohibitions that represent our common definition of moral behavior is the day this nation will truly begin to lose its hold on our own and the world's respect.
So, Americans must continue to grapple with issues of moral decline and must decry the soft decay of our mutually held values. It is a good thing we debate these things. A completely secular society is one in which "everything goes" and, when that occurs, the first thing to go will be the United States of America.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. His book, "Right Answers: Separating Fact from fantasy", is published by Merril Press. © Alan Caruba, March 2007