my pissant two cents

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

their idea of morals and mine are very different

i've had just about enough of the moralists on the right, and the jelly-legged democrats enabling them. the claim that "moral values" trumped the economy and the hellbroth in iraq at last month's election seems to be a golem gone amok. and people who should know better are cowering from it.

once again, the right is defining the terms of the debate. morals, apparently, only enter into the issues of gay marriage and abortion. they have nothing to do with, say, feeding hungry children, acting with compassion toward those rendered impoverished by unfettered capitalism, or healing the sick. no, my friends, it is only whom you pledge your immortal love to and whether, as a woman, you may choose your biological fate that concerns these self-proclaimed arbiters of morality.

i don't buy it.

i come from a church-going baptist family, and i know a thing or two about people who take it upon themselves to decide whether you're godly enough. i know enough to know that there aren't enough stones for these glasshouse dwellers. and i also know that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

nevertheless, there are plenty of examples of fear-based self-censorship based on the supposed march of the morality police. all three major networks refused to air public service ads by the united church of christ professing the church's acceptance of all races and creeds, including homosexuals. the problem? too controversial. wrap your mind around that for a second. non-discrimination is too hot to handle.

and let's not forget the recent broadcast of "saving private ryan." on veteran's day. the day we remember veterans and the sacrifices they made for our freedom. however, at the hint of complaint from the religious right, 66 abc affiliates dropped the film. because, apparently, when veterans of world war 2 were under fire, they occasionally used the s-word. and sometimes even the f-word. while they were being shot at. for our freedom. to use the f-word, for example.

this brings me to an interesting question about censorship. f.c.c. chair michael powell has recommended no action against stations that broadcast "saving private ryan" in its unedited form. so apparently, there was a content-based decision determining that it was not indecent to show that film, with its potty-mouthed dogfaces. however, howard stern, who studiously avoids the deadly words and instead has mastered the euphemism and scientific vernacular to get his salacious points across, is looking at millions in fines. not that i leap to stern's defense, but the first step on a slippery slope is the easiest, and once the government starts deciding whose bad words are actionable you're already en route to the bottom.

as frank rich writes in the new york times, the new liam neeson film "kinsey" has the moralists in a snit also. whether they've seen it or not, they have no doubt that the film-- a fairly nuts-n-bolts look at the zoologist who studied human sexuality with candor theretofore unheard of-- is the first step toward pagans and perverts giving how-to classes in grammar schools everywhere. not that such a thing wouldn't be better than the abstinence-only tripe being shoveled out to students today. as a columbia university survey shows, california, which foregoes federal funds to free itself from the abstinence-only chains, has seen a 40-percent drop in teen pregnancy, while 88 percent of "virginity pledge" teens have premarital sex and use contraception at far lower rates than those who make no such pledge.

i'm finding a little encouragement that a few on the left are calling for some backbone to stand up to these hypocrites. the website sent out an e-mailer to their faithful, reminding them that only 22% of those who claimed morals guided their votes held that gay marriage and abortion moved their votes, whereas 42% said iraq was their biggest concern. (this last figure is ambiguous though, since it doesn't differentiate between war supporters and opponents.) they're circulating an e-petition to remind those in d.c. that the religious right does not own morals, and that peace and justice are moral issues also. (

i'm not religious, but the words of jesus are pretty clear on casting aspersions on others and proclaiming your piety. they also speak of the moral imperative of taking care of those in need. they speak of the duty to act for peace and mercy. they speak against greed and avarice. it seems to me that jesus, whether you consider him a deity or a misunderstood rabbi, was wise and kind.

and it strikes me that his idea of morality is quite different from that of those self-elected presidents of his fan club.


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