Our Morality Is Shaped By Politics

Every four years we get to witness, first hand, how politics shapes personal morality. Americans from both political parties take each candidate’s words and actions and shape them into the proper mold as friend or foe, good or bad, right or wrong. As this year’s political wind rages stronger than hurricane Ike, I feel compelled to comment.

I receive comments, from normally sane and reasonable readers, that are so emotionally charged in one direction as to defy sensibility This reflects our society as a whole. We tend to choose one political side and deify that candidate, while we demonize the other.

I have played devil’s advocate with some of you, trying to see how deep your feelings sit, whether they ride close to the surface, or whether they are so deeply rooted as to be virtually unchangeable. What I find is this, no matter how great the evidence, it usually takes something akin to the Second Coming to change our deeply held political and social beliefs. My research leads me to believe that one third of us lean to the left, one third to the right, while the other third sits in the middle, blowing with the wind. This has been pretty much true throughout political history. One third rules. One of these days I will elaborate on this.

McCain had his fingers deep into the savings and loan debacle of the 1980s. His campaign finance reform exempted Indian Casinos, his greatest source of campaign donors. His supporters brush this off like there was no moral or political failure. His detractors choose this as the only litmus test of his character.

Obama profited immensely from a shady real estate deal with Tony Rezko. His political career was turbocharged by Bill Ayers, a proud former terrorist. His minister of twenty years spouted hate-filled, anti-white rhetoric from the pulpit to raucous cheers of “Amen.” Obama’s supporters see this as politics as usual. His detractors see this as a glimpse into a sinister inner man.

Joe Biden is a plagiarist, whose son and brother have been accused of fraud. His champions shrug this off, while his challengers use this to show the hypocrisy they see in the national media, particularly with their attacks of Sarah Palin.

The alleged misdeeds of the Clintons are legendary. Accusations of fraud, murder, viciousness and self-dealing pale to those of any third world dictator. Her supporters view this as right-wing rhetoric, while her detractors see it as evidence that she should be in jail.

Many of Sarah Palin’s detractors accuse her of having a Down Syndrome child just to prove a point. They see it as child abuse. Her daughter’s pregnancy is seen as a moral failure. Her supporters point to her strong religious beliefs and her impressive (albeit short) political track record as signs of her strength as a candidate.

No amount of evidence can shake the deep seated convictions of political ideologues. It is viewed as “circumstantial,” even when it comes from court records or first hand accounts. It is viewed as meaningless, when compared to the much-more-important issues in the election.

What divides us?

God: What role should God play in politics?
· Conservatives tend to want God as part of the political equation. They want God influencing schools and the government. They want religious morality as part of the governing process. They feel that we cannot separate ourselves from the most important issues of religious morality.
· Liberals tend to want to keep God out of government. They don’t want religion taught in school, or the Ten Commandments in our courthouses.

Abortion: Should abortion be legal or not?
· Religious conservatives believe that life is sacred. An abortion to them is a choice to end a life, not far removed from murder.
· Many liberals (particularly feminists) see abortion almost like a Sacrament, or Inalienable Right. No one should be able to legislate a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body, or any childe within it.

Role of Government: Should the government be large or small. Should the government decide where to spend our money, or should it be left up to individual choice?
· Conservatives tend to want to keep their money and spend it how they see fit.
· Liberals want to tax (particularly the rich) and spend it as they see fit.

Taxes: Should we have high taxes or low taxes? (See role of government.)
· Liberals tend to want higher taxes and more government control over where the money is spent.
· Conservatives want less taxes and more personal choice.

International Policy: What role should we play in the world?
· Liberals tend to abhor war and anything to do with it. They want to spend as little as possible (without sacrificing personal safety) and spend the money here at home. Liberals would rather get along with their enemies than fight with them.
· Conservatives see the world as a dangerous place. They feel that there are enemies that we can’t be friends with, and that we should do all we can to defend against them, even if it means going to war.

These are the central issues that often frame the political beliefs of the one third on each side of the political aisle. Whichever candidate aligns most closely with our feelings on these central issues, we will back with blind faith. We will ignore any personal weaknesses or failures. We sweep away any indiscretions or abuse of the law. Our candidate can do no wrong, and we do all we can to destroy the other.

Politics is blood sport. No, politics is a battle to the death and it takes no prisoners. Something is terribly wrong here. Those that seek political office are often not the best our nation can produce. I am not sure if they simply represent America, with all its flaws, or if they represent some lesser class of human, drawn to politics like a neurotic to Hollywood. (I could have been drawn to Hollywood, to make films of my books. So, don’t take this as a knock on character, just an observation.) Are we electing the best we can produce, or are we elevating the most flawed as our leaders?

There is a German word, called schadenfreude, the guilty pleasure we feel at someone else’s misery. Is this similar to what we feel about politicians? Are we happy to elect people that are more flawed than we? And, do we lower our own moral standards to support these candidates? Sadly, this may just be the case.


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