“Moral Values” (editorial 3)

And so here we are. If the election proves anything, it proves that conditions in this country and the actions of its government have very little to do with our reasons for selecting its leaders.

In an historic election on which rides, very possibly, the future of this nation as we know it, exit polls showed that the top issue was not the continuing threat of terrorism; it was not the Iraq war; it was not the burgeoning deficit or the lackluster economy. No, the top issue was a nebulous phrase both meaningless and pregnant with hidden meaning: the top issue cited by voters was “moral values.”

The first thing that came to my mind when I heard that was, “Which ones?” After all, it could be considered highly immoral to make war against a nation that poses no threat to the American people, a war resulting in the violent deaths of tens of thousands, most of them innocent women and children.

Was Abu Ghraib a moral place? Was it right to hide the truth about what was done in our name? (And no, I don’t hold Bush culpable for the torture; but he, like any Commander in Chief, is responsible for the actions—and inactions—of his Defense Department.)

Some would question the morality of policies designed to shift the tax burden away from capital, causing it to land almost entirely on the back of labor. And if massive tax cuts for today’s wealthy political donors and voters make it necessary to either cut benefits to tomorrow’s elderly or impose draconian tax increases on future workers–as economists predict–are such cuts a moral choice?

And if “voluntary” pollution controls for corporations are not enough to make safe the air we breathe and the water we drink; if denial of global warming does not make it go away; if the government’s refusal to ask Americans to conserve results in more military action to protect “national interests” in the form of the oil supply—is that moral? Is it moral to ignore the environment that sustains us?

If we are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights, and if among these rights is freedom from unreasonable intrusions by the government into the lives of citizens, and the right to due process when taken into custody by the government, is it moral to suspend these rights in the name of protecting the nation founded on them? Under whose authority?

In this light, I respectfully disagree with the notion that the administration’s return to power is the result of people choosing “morality” over whatever the Democrats are supposed to represent. My own moral struggle requires more clarity in calling this choice by its real name. I mean to say, I would actually feel better about the results if voters’ motivations had been more honestly reported. Not good, but better.

But instead they simply quoted “moral values.” It doesn’t tell the story. Not unless this really is an age of moral relativism, and what’s moral for you is not moral for me. But no, the “moral values” evangelicals would be the first to dispute that. So I guess we see reality itself differently. I see the slaughter of thousands of innocent women and children in pursuit of a political agenda, and they see–what? I see a government so bereft of morality it ignores the humanity of the Geneva conventions and attempts to redefine “torture” in its prisons to apply only to cases of organ failure, and they see–what? I see the wholesale theft of the next generations’ Social Security, Medicare and earnings in the form of trillions of dollars in deficit spending, and they see–what? I see the snuffing out of countless species–possibly the destruction of life itself–as a result of willfully ignoring the documented effects of human activity on this planet’s delicate ecosystems, and they see–what?

What do they see? These are not assertions, after all. They are facts.

Fact: the Iraq war was not defensive, hence it was by definition waged for political reasons.
Fact: the Justice Department actively sought ways to abandon its moral obligations under the Geneva Conventions by writing “legal opinions” attempting to redefine torture and the status of American prisoners of war. Right now, the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba are beyond the authority of every American legal jurisdiction.
Fact: the budget surplus that greeted Bush when he came to office is gone, our current annual deficit is nearly $500 billion, and such deficits are now predicted for every year into the next decade. The main reason for this is the Bush tax cuts.
Fact: the U.S. government’s own research agencies acknowledge the contribution of human activity to global warming, but the Bush administration has instituted no policies designed to curb such activity and refuses to join other industrialized nations in the Kyoto treaty.

Homosexuals in the closet, creationism taught in science classrooms, abortions performed in bathtubs and perpetual war with “evildoers” will not change the horrendous legacy of a dangerously radical administration incapable of recognizing its own moral transgressions. So if that’s what you voted for, please tell me how such an agenda outweighs everything we, as Americans, should have voted against.

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