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A Bad Week for Public Morality


A new Gallup poll shows that 72 percent of Americans think morals as a whole are getting worse in the country; 44 percent said the state of American morals is “poor,” which is six points higher than two years ago.

We should take numbers like these with a grain of salt; morality isn’t exactly easy to measure, especially across timespans. In some ways we are a more moral society than we used to be: there’s less ugly racism, and we are less cruel to gay people than we were 50 years ago. It’s true that we’ve seen a rise in political sex scandals over the past few years, but even here it’s hard to know we’re looking at something real. Did the press just report less in the past on the sins of politicians?

But it’s hard to deny that the past week has offered plenty of reasons to worry about public morality. A top IRS official pleads the Fifth to avoid answering questions about her conduct in office. Accidental Tweeter Anthony Weiner is testing the half-life of his own sexual infidelities by jumping into the New York mayoral race. And then there are the usual dismal markers of marital breakdown and adults failing to take responsibility for their children.

Today there are some powerful forces undermining civic virtue in America. Creating a strong culture of virtue is one of the big tasks facing us in the coming decades.

[Anthony Weiner image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

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  • Tom

    The problem with doing that is that the cultural gatekeepers seem to hold the opinion that virtue is optional to live a good life–or, if there are virtues that are mandatory, then they are to be applied primarily to either Holy Mother Gaia or poor oppressed colonized peoples.

  • Marty Keller

    Our leadership is a precise reflection of who we are as a nation; whatever moral culpability we wish to hold them accountable for is actually a projection of our own. As WRM has pointed out, we Boomers have a lot to answer for. The moral enfeeblement of the country is something we have all created, and will only change once enough of us decide to embrace remorse and take responsibility. The most in-debt, obese, addicted cohort in history might still turn things around. We better hurry up, though.

    • TheCynical1

      Agreed. It’s like the old saying: the people get the government they deserve.

    • Jim Luebke

      I truly wish you the best of luck, trying to turn things around.

      It’s the fact that there’s wheat in amongst those tares that keeps the lot from getting tossed into the fire.

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