Robert Meyer
Weiner incident highlights moral apathy
By Robert Meyer
June 29, 2011

Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner did something morally commendable — he finally decided to resign his office. In this piece I will make no attempts to pile more contempt or ridicule on the already disgraced Weiner, nor will I try to come up with a cleverly worded insult that is a play on his name. My real concern here to observe how these sorts of situations point to the moral apathy of so many American citizens today. I am told that a majority of Weiner's constituents wanted him to stay in office in spite of his initial denial, followed by an admission to sending out suggestive pictures of himself using electronic media. That is a sad commentary on our trend in America to conflate the virtue of tolerance with a propensity to condone, or even celebrate bad character.

We have been told numerous times that our European counterparts laugh at us because we get so worked up over the sexual improprieties of our politicians. Within "enlightened" European countries, we are told that people simply expect scandalous behavior from their governmental representatives — so it is, of course, no big deal. As Americans, expecting high moral character from political leaders is seen by Europeans as evidence pointing to prudishness and a lack of sophistication. But the argument is easily reversible. I might ask when it became so important to impress secular Europeans? After all, more than 200 years ago we waged a war for our independence that threw off the tyranny of European notions of governance. Why are some now convinced that we should be so hastily as to uncritically embrace their cultural ethos?

A characteristic that often delineates liberals from conservatives, is how each defines "morality." Liberals are likely to view morality in terms of advocacy for the "right" social policies. On the other hand, conservatives contend that morality is a function of personal conduct. For that reason, Weiner, along with former President Bill Clinton, and others since then, were able to remain popular, while having their moral improprieties ignored or overlooked. Liberal constituencies cared little about personal conduct as long as their social mandates were being granted and expanded.

In Congress, conservatives are far more likely to expel a member convicted, or even accused of a moral impropriety, based on their own self-imposed rules. But in the liberal caucuses, such individuals are frequently applauded, or even heralded for their "heroic" perseverance in refusing to resign even after admissions of poor behavior. One reason this occurs is because liberals argue that they don't run on, or emphasize, a platform of moral values and personal conduct. The logic follows that conservatives who fail to meet their own standards are deemed hypocrites, but liberals are blameless because they don't have a benchmark for conduct. Pretty convenient, but based on convoluted logic I'd say. This inequity gives me no warm fuzzy feeling. Why not a universal standard for everyone who holds office? It seems only reasonable that we have high standards for those who hold office, since the decisions they make can so heavily impact all citizens, and politicians, by the very nature of their jobs, are confronted with so many pressures and temptations.

Related to this unsettling situation, is the knee-jerk tendency to deflect criticism over moral failings by abusing the biblical edict "judge not, lest ye also be judged...," as though those voicing disapproval are the actual scoundrels. Such an obtuse usage of a truncated biblical text is no more valid then the person, who in seeking daily inspiration, haphazardly selects the verse "And Judas went out and hanged himself," then not liking that suggestion happens across the verse that says "Go and do Thou likewise," and actually ponders whether he should act accordingly.

Another tactic is to equate the act of criticizing moral behavior, with the spewing of "hatred," or even racial discrimination. These red-herring accusations have at least two purposes. First, it shifts the discussion away from the argument in view, and redirects it toward a defense of character. Secondly, it projects and imputes the hatred of those who are approving of or apathetic toward immorality, to the individual who is pointing it out.

Our second President, John Adams once proclaims that "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people, it is wholly inadequate for the government of any other." it was assumed that freedom could only be entrusted to a people who would internally regulate themselves. Today we have a growing body of citizens who want the freedom, but refuse to regulate themselves with moral restrain. Nor do they esteem it in others. Such a people will continue to elect representatives and political leaders who are immoral politicians, instead of upright statesmen. We have come face to face with the enemy and it is ourselves.

© Robert Meyer


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Robert Meyer

Robert Meyer is a hardy soul who hails from the Cheesehead country of the upper midwest... (more)


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