Archive for Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Aberrant behavior now the norm

October 4, 2006


In the media accounts of Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley's resignation from the House over allegations of sexually explicit e-mails between himself and House pages, one frequently encounters the word "disgraced" modifying Foley's name and "scandal" to describe his behavior.

These are moral words, created for the purpose of labeling aberrant (and abhorrent) behavior. To show how far we have drifted from any sociological - not to mention theological - moorings, consider these definitions from "aberrant: departing from the right, normal, or usual course"; abhorrent: "causing repugnance; detestable; loathsome."

Right? Normal? Detestable? People who mock such notions ask, "According to whom?" Public schools, popular culture and editorialists at major newspapers have hammered into us this aversion to transgenerational morality. They proclaim that one person's concept and definition of "right" is as valid as another person's and to assert that there is only one right, one normal and one course is to be "judgmental" or "bigoted," attitudes modernity considers a worse "sin" than the behavior that used to be called sinful.

Our sophisticated age demands we not recoil at aberrant behavior, or call it abhorrent. The anti-moral wrecking ball has caused enough damage to our foundations that what remains of a structure is no longer recognizable. NBC edits positive references to God before broadcasting "Veggie Tales" but refuses to edit Madonna's blasphemous depiction of herself on a cross. These decisions are made by the network's "standards and practices" office, which mocks the words because clearly there remain few standards to which practices may be conformed.

Behavior once thought shameful is now paraded openly and promoted proudly to sell books. Former New Jersey Democratic Gov. James McGreevey tours the talk-show circuit. His presence dares anyone to question the legitimacy of his dumping two wives and having sex with men. He apologizes for his extramarital sexual relations and for putting people on the state payroll that didn't belong there, but he has no intention of changing his behavior.

Bill Clinton has recovered from sex with an intern in the White House and impeachment. He doesn't suffer for having practiced aberrant behavior. Few see him as having disgraced himself. Clinton takes in six figures on the lecture circuit and enjoys rock star status wherever he goes.

Former Congressman Gerry Studds, D-Mass., may have started this decline (or did he merely reflect declining morality?). Studds had an affair in the early '80s with a 17-year-old male page. Studds was censured by the House, but famously turned his back to the Speaker in an act of disrespect and rejection of the judgment by his colleagues. He refused to resign and was re-elected to several more terms. A homosexual organization donated $10,000 to his campaign.

Rep. Daniel B. Crane, R-Ill., had an affair more than two decades ago with a 17-year-old female page. After apologizing, he said he hadn't violated his oath of office, hoped his wife and children would forgive him, and announced plans to run for re-election.

We all have what theologians call a "fallen" nature and no one should judge himself (or herself) morally superior to others. But that does not mean the standard for "right" behavior should be eliminated simply because many appear unwilling to conform to that standard.

In his classic, "The Abolition of Man," C.S. Lewis observed three generations ago that we are engaged in a type of tragic-comedy: ": we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. : In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful."

Scandal? Disgrace? I think not. Foley and others could only be so labeled if popular culture condemned, rather than promoted, immorality. Oh, sorry, there I go again, appealing to a discarded standard.

We do laugh at honor and as a result we do find traitors in our midst. We also mock conventions and then are surprised when some take us seriously and respond as if there are none. Congressman Foley can look forward to talk show fame and a lucrative book deal. Welcome to America, 2006!

- Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.


xenophonschild 9 years ago

Gasbag. Foley is through, as are the Republican twits who encouraged and protected him. And he will never be welcome on the talk-show circuit. Shagging babes is acceptable, but not mnor males.

Ragingbear 9 years ago

I agree. At least with the Bill/Monica thing, they were both consenting adults. This Foley thing involved an underage kid. That completely changes the entire relationship to one of consent, to one of a teen being taken advantage of.

What more, why is the LJWorld posting this guy's drivel?

Porter 9 years ago

Why are Foley's actions being compared to adulterers?? Newt Gingrich, Ben Stein, and others have also claimed that Republican leaders refused to act on the early reports because they were afraid of being considered "gay bashing".

How difficult is it to separate adultery, homosexuality, and PEDOPHILIA?

prioress 9 years ago

Settle down. It's useful to read Cal. He's mellowed a bit, but much of his stuff reminds me of the middle ages. Beware those who possess the revealed truth and want to explain it to you. Foley was wrong, as are many others. It has little to do with the "decline" of civilization. Returning to the medieval glories of the Catholic Church is not an improvement. Censorship is wrong, even for Cal T.

Kookamooka 9 years ago

The politicians are only partly to blame for our relaxed moral values. I blame reality television and shows like Jerry Springer for legitimizing and making bad behavior "cool".

Tychoman 9 years ago

T in Thomas is for tool. Thomas is a complete and utter moron for saying that "abhorrent" and "disgrace" aren't proper adjectives to describe this disgusting man known as Foley.

"I'm gay, I was molested by clergy when I was a teenager, but I'm SO not using this as an excuse."

Linda Endicott 9 years ago

This kind of behavior has always been present in Congress and in the White House, but in our modern age it's different, as now the media report it all.

It used to be that the media was hush- hush about scandalous stuff like this. Back in the 50s and early 60s, everyone knew what a skirt-chaser JFK was, but nobody wrote about it. It was an unspoken rule in the media.

I wonder what opened it up? Watergate, perhaps? Vietnam? I don't remember exactly when it began to change.

xenophonschild 9 years ago

Clinton was persecuted by Republican Nazis bankrolled by their fringe-lunatic right and fundamentalist Christian idiots, essentially for having a consensual adult sexual relationship with a female not his wife.

Clinton-haters need counseling, professional help . . . perhaps to address personal sexual shortcomings that are inflamed by the example of an alpha male exercising his libido with a consenting adult female.

Linda Endicott 9 years ago

I really wish I could remember when the shift began in the media, from protecting politicians to reporting all the scandals.

Maybe they ought to do away with political parties at all, and just make people get elected on their own merits, not a party platform.

Nice dream...but it will never happen, huh?

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