To the editor:
It’s not about being nice; it is about understanding social obligations.
A man constructs a story about his past to make himself appear heroic. The story is untrue. So we pass laws that make the lie a crime, and send the man to jail. A football coach wins a close game and backslaps his opposite, who then chases him across the field. Now we hear voices calling for codes of conduct. The idea is that people who act badly must be punished.
But if we want to punish, then we’ll have to define standards, behavior and levels and degrees of misconduct and intent and motive and all sorts of other things. We end up with statutes and codes and investigators and prosecutors, lawyers, judges, and eventually prisons. The idea, of course, is that these are the things that make people behave.
But we are a democratic people, and what democracy needs is educated participants. It must be self-executing and cannot survive coercion. Democracy cannot live in the same house with a big brother.
We must teach our children the duties of freedom. They must learn the lessons of civility in our homes, our schools, our churches and in our public squares. The man who lies to children about medals he did not earn should be punished by being shunned. The bad sport must be discouraged by our scorn and pity. Let’s resist the temptation to invite big brother into our house.