Couple names come to mind here. Hank Williams Jr…Charlie Sheen…Lindsey Lohan….Bill Clinton.
One of the mantras to emerge from the 1960s was: “If it feels right, it must be right.” About that same time the Ten Commandments sorta changed into the Ten Suggestions. Situational ethics sorta replaced absolute ethics. We’ve become a freer, more open-minded culture. Outside the Bible Belt, we draw outside-the-lines with, if not moral impunity, certainly attitudinal impunity.
And why not…? These are not the dark days of Medieval witch-hunts and inquisitions. The damning Scarlet Letter has been replaced with the understanding clinic. The vicious criminality of the mafia has been transformed into the familial honor of “The Godfather.” And graft in government, well we bitch a little, but then belly up to the bar with a what-are-you-going-to-do shrug.
Outside the Bible Belt, not many of us are rushing to resurrect another Savonarola. In a multi-culture democracy like ours, live-and-let-live has proved to be the safest trail to follow. The late great Senator Daniel Moynihan conducted what he termed a deviance-study which graphed the steady lowering of the bar. Less and less deviant behavior is considered by society as deviant. [ Well Hank Williams learned that of all the sizzling third-rails you absolutely don’t touch in public, it’s Adolf Hitler ].
Americans rightfully look shocked at the religious rigors imposed, especially on women, in the Middle East. We’re good at fingering bad; but bad at fingering good. Because, you see, if there’s less to label bad anymore, there’s less left to honor as really good anymore. When we stand for everything, we may end up believing in nothing.
By and large this is called: Tolerance.
Now really, how could anyone be intolerant of tolerance…? The only way to live together in this multiplicity of races, nationalities, and religions is to hang loose and give the next guy his space. I’m all for that. But at the same time I’m reminded of this fact-check about our changeable human nature:
* An absolute conservative is a liberal who just got mugged
* An absolute liberal is a conservative who just got jailed
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