"The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant." ~ John Stuart Mill
Morality: The New Black
The morning after our most recent exercise--not counting Christmas--in mass dementia, otherwise known as Election Day, we learned the tide was turned by 'moral values,' ostensibly. The debate continues apace. Bush won because, allegedly, he represents these values; Kerry lost because he doesn't. Kerry's camp is sufficiently outraged about their boy's perceived lack of morals--and, by extension, their own--while the Bushies sit smugly wrapped in the mantle of the morally superior. Or so they say.
For my part as a non-voting malcontent, I was pretty pissed off too. My outrage radar is highly sensitive to claims of moral superiority by anyone--particularly anyone associated with the modern conservative movement. Those who flaunt their morality are least likely to possess any of real value, in my experience. My terms of morality are pretty simple: If it doesn't hurt anyone other than yourself, it's probably okay. I suppose that makes me one of those 'moral relativists' the bluenose brigade lives to despise. So be it. Morality is subjective. One man's moral outrage is another's crusade for a colonial, uh, free, Iraq, namely.
I was also perplexed. What had Kerry done to deserve the perception, among a certain bloc of voters, of being immoral, or at least less moral than Bush? (Leaving aside, for the sake of argument, the generally inherent immorality of politicians in the first place.) Was it the swift boat thing? Clinton residue? Wedding a rich widow? We lacked Gary Hart-sized meltdowns regarding Kerry's past. So, what, then? (I'll wager dinner at the Fox News cafeteria someone will respond 'gay marriage' or 'abortion.' Bogus. Kerry refused to endorse gay marriage outright, and anti-abortionists aren't noted for expressing their beliefs with glittering generalities like 'moral values.') Surely the National Guard flunky sending legions to die in a superfluous, hegemonic nightmare should be perceived as less moral than Kerry, in general. Shouldn't he? Why is it immoral to abort a fetus at three weeks gestation, and yet perfectly moral, nay, heroic, to send a fully formed, 18-year-old fetus to his violent death for a government?
Of course, there hasn't really been a sudden groundswell of support for moral values in the red herring states. The benighted voters were simply posed a tightly parsed, scientifically researched, multiple-choice question as they emerged from behind the curtain. To wit: Why did you vote for so-and-so?
A.) The economy
B.) The War on Terror
C.) Social Security
D.) Lower taxes
E.) Moral values
Or something like that.
Many Bush voters, no doubt wracked with uncertainty over their ballots, chose E. Not at all thrilled with A through D, they opted to make a feel-good statement about themselves. They sought reassurance of their own moral, American, rectitude to palliate the queasiness they felt over voting for a man they know, deep in their viscera, is anything but moral. If only they could admit it.
The easily duped, highly excitable media picked it up, and as they are prone, blew it wantonly out of proportion. The administration, growing chilly wrapped only in the rapidly tattering Old Glory, quickly snatched up this new cover. Now they had a mandate, and a moral one at that. Santa came early. He brought them vindication of all their self-assured righteousness--a shiny new bludgeon to wield over the disloyal and unpatriotic.
The upside to all of this nonsense is that we now get to watch the neomoralistas' house, built upon splintering stilts in the quicksand of a vague notion like moral values, collapse under its own weight and plunge into the muck. Or so one would think. Bush celebrated his moral mandate by nominating a philandering tax dodger for Homeland Security chief. Nary a whimper from the newly integrified. Funny thing about morals, those who swear most avowedly of their own find it remarkably easy to debar themselves and their prophets from judgment when need be. The very same who decry 'moral relativists' are extraordinarily savvy to making excuses for themselves and the team. If nothing else, they just plead ignorance, faulty intelligence, or Bill Clinton.