Tuesday, March 2, 2010
I have been pondering the idea of absolutes of late. Jesus is the one true way to heaven, there is but one God, limited government leads to individual liberties, if you make the choice to bring a child into your home, you are then responsible for the health and welfare of that child; these are a few of mine. Much in life are shades of gray so they say. But is it really?
I live in major metropolitan area even though technically I live in a small town. The traffic here is rated as the second worst in the country. I used to live in a bigger city, and happened to work in the same city. My job was about 3 miles away from my condo. Sometimes on a Friday afternoon it would take me close to an hour to get home. Part of the reason was other people thinking that their time was more valuable than mine. In Alexandria, VA one of the main roads is Duke Street. At one time it had the claim to fame as being the street that had more pedestrian hit and killed by cars than any other in the country. Personally, I feel that Duke Street should be outlawed and I avoid it like the plague. Of course this used to be my most direct route home. At one of the many four way intersections was a right turn only lane. There are businesses on both sides of the street as well as an entrance/exit to I-395. It is rare that the traffic there is not heavy. As it happens that is where I turned to go home. Now I would stay in the proper lanes and make my way over to the right turn only lane. Inevitability I would end up behind someone who was going straight and was just in that lane to avoid waiting in line. I would then miss my light to turn. It annoyed me to no end, especially when they would make rude hand gestures at me when I honked so I could turn.
I worked retail on and off for many years as it is an easy job to find as a second job to make some extra money when you work full time. For someone that has never done this before you would be amazed at how many people shoplift in front of their children, they will look you in the face and lie about pricing. They will say they don’t have a receipt while returning something in the hopes that they will get back more than what they paid, once you don’t fall for it they suddenly find the missing receipt. It stunned me at first, but sadly, over time I became immune to it.
The reality is that we have lost our moral compass as a society. Not all that long ago I blogged about 10 people who watched a 15 year-old girl being beaten and gang raped. They did nothing to help this poor young girl. That is not just a moral failing of these parents, but as a society as well.
We watch as the term racist is leveled at people for no other reason than the politics of personal destruction. We have politicians who chair the committee that actually writes tax law evading taxes. He also uses four rent controlled apartments as office space even though his constituents are among the poorest in the nation. He takes away affordable housing from people who need it the most, yet we continually re-elect him. Why would politicos not believe that they are above the rules? Our actions say that we agree with it. Heck, even the head of treasury cheated on his taxes. He only paid when he was up for the job. Yet we gave him the job anyway.
So where has our morality gone? There are no easy answers to this question. America is a society that melds together many cultures that have differing norms. Another explanation is the fact that our government has people to become dependent on it instead of oneself. We have institutionalized poverty in this country with the welfare system. We have said that is ok for your needs to be given to you by someone else.
If you look at the areas of the country that have failing schools systems you will find many are in urban areas. Take D.C. as an example. It has a high level of population that is on some form of government assistance, and the school system is a national disgrace. Near miles from the Capitol Dome and The White House kids walk past crack houses, liquor stores, and gangs to go to a failing school that is quite literally falling down. Yet, the very successful voucher program was discontinued by the current congress. 90% of the kids who received the vouchers were people of color from families receiving public assistance. The District spends somewhere between $15,000-$20,000 /student. That money would be more effectively used to send these kids to high achieving private schools. Cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, and sections of New York don’t fare much better. This does nothing but increases the need for public assistance and yes, institutionalizes poverty.
As levels of dependency grows in this country the need for levels of personal responsibility inevitability shrinks. An easy analogy is to imagine parents of two children. One is a high achiever and the other will do only what is absolutely necessary. Do you take the achievements of the high achiever and give them to the one that can’t be bothered to help himself? If you do, all you are doing is taking away the incentive for either of them to better themselves. Just for different reasons.
Setting a high bar for all is a good thing. While it is true that not all will succeed, the chances for success increases when people are empowered with necessary tools that are needed to succeed. Personal responsibility and striving for a better life are two of these tools. Personal responsibility stops people from buying a house that they cannot pay for among other things. Being personally responsible and striving for a better life is two of the many keys to success in this country. They also lead to a more moral society. The nanny state takes those powers away from people.
I am in no way advocating that we legislate morality in this country. Even if it were possible, moral absolutes have to come from within to be effective. But, what we can do is stop blurring the lines between black and white. There is a right and a wrong. There is a good and an evil. There is selfishness and being personally responsible. We need to stop putting virtually everything into the gray area, because you cannot get gray without parts of black and white.