Core Values and Moral Relativism

Neighborhood Note:

This was an odd day in Hollywood. In the morning, the major sex symbol of the seventies, Farah Fawcett, died – at Saint John’s Hospital over in Santa Monica. She was sixty-two. Many of us are. And in early afternoon, Michael Jackson, the “King of Pop” and for many decades the biggest celebrity in the world, and only fifty, had a heart attack at the giant mansion he was renting over off Sunset, and died as they got him to the nearby UCLA Medical Center.

Below are photographs of the scene at Farah Fawcett’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – on the northwest corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Sycamore, right in front of the Scientology Place, the L. Ron Hubbard Gallery. News vans lined the streets and there were her sad fans everywhere, and paparazzi and whatnot. This was between the two deaths. The news vans must have quickly been off to the UCLA hospital over in Westwood and the fans off to place flowers on Jackson’s star, just to the east, in front of the Chinese Theater (but that would have to wait, as there was another premiere there that afternoon). This is an odd place.

The Death in Hollywood photos… The Death StarThe VulturesCamera FolksMeanwhile

And note this comment on Michael Jackson from Andrew Sullivan:

There are two things to say about him. He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child. By abuse, I do not mean sexual abuse; I mean he was used brutally and callously for money, and clearly imprisoned by a tyrannical father. He had no real childhood and spent much of his later life struggling to get one. He was spiritually and psychologically raped at a very early age – and never recovered. Watching him change his race, his age, and almost his gender, you saw a tortured soul seeking what the rest of us take for granted: a normal life.

But he had no compass to find one; no real friends to support and advise him; and money and fame imprisoned him in the delusions of narcissism and self-indulgence. Of course, he bears responsibility for his bizarre life. But the damage done to him by his own family and then by all those motivated more by money and power than by faith and love was irreparable in the end. He died a while ago. He remained for so long a walking human shell.

I loved his music. His young voice was almost a miracle, his poise in retrospect eerie, his joy, tempered by pain, often unbearably uplifting. He made the greatest music video of all time; and he made some of the greatest records of all time. He was everything our culture worships; and yet he was obviously desperately unhappy, tortured, afraid and alone.

I grieve for him; but I also grieve for the culture that created and destroyed him. That culture is ours and it is a lethal and brutal one: with fame and celebrity as its core values, with money as its sole motive, it chewed this child up and spat him out.

If you live in Hollywood you get used to that, or just step back and document it.

And see Hilzoy (Hilary Bok) on Farah Fawcett:

She was enough of a star that she didn’t need to make The Burning Bed, and the kind of star (all-American sex symbol) who might justifiably have wondered what effect it might have on her career. But she made it anyway, and it had an enormous effect of bringing the discussion of domestic violence into the mainstream. A lot of people owe her thanks for that, and other things.

And all that makes you think about core values.

The Column:

Ah, that Mark Sanford thing in Argentina:

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, facing pressure to resign over an extramarital affair, said on Thursday he would repay state funds he used for an official trip to Argentina during which he met his mistress.

Sanford’s move came as questions mounted whether he had used public funds to pursue a yearlong affair with the woman.

It keeps getting worse:

A day after his stunning confession that he cheated on his wife with a woman in Argentina, a chastened Gov. Mark Sanford sought to do damage control Thursday at home with his family while many politicians urged the South Carolina leader to resign.

Fellow Republicans issued sharp calls for the disgraced Sanford to step down – a move he indicated he was not considering. And at least one campaign donor was drafting a letter asking for his money back.

One county GOP leader said the governor “talked about how our leaders have stepped away from our core values, and said one thing on the campaign trail or out in the public and did something different in the background.”

Glenn McCall, a local representative to the Republican National Committee, said the GOP “can recover from this if we hold him accountable and the governor does the right thing and resigns for the sake of the party.”

What happens when you step away from core values? In a party that claims that it is the party of actual values, not moral relativism – what is right and wrong sort of depends on how you look at it and how you act on those values That moral relativism crap is for the Democrats – they have no real values at all, you see. You know the argument. It’s been made for decades now – no need to belabor it.

So you can see why they want this guy gone – except they never felt that way about David Vitter, what with those prostitutes, on John Ensign confessing his affair with one of his staff, and using public funds to pay off the woman and her husband to keep them from talking about it. They can stay. All this can get a little confusing.

And don’t apply logic. A conservative, Mike Potemra, writing in the most conservative of places, the National Review, does that, and gets all sensible:

As someone who favors gay marriage, I think this Sanford scandal underscores a central truth. The anti-gay-marriage forces are stuck making a slippery-slope argument when, in fact, we’re already at the bottom of the slippery slope. Here’s a guy, Sanford, who has not just not a moral and religious incentive to keep his marriage vows, but also a political-survival incentive. Yet the public sense of the sacredness of marriage has declined to the point that even he couldn’t do it. How much more could this institution be eviscerated, by letting a tiny, tiny minority of same-sexers join it? (Gays are a small fraction of the population, and the percentage of them who want to get married is a small fraction of the small fraction. The issue is, as the lawyers say, de minimis.

Yep, if one guy after the other, after getting all high and mighty about traditional marriage, proves over and over that the institution isn’t that sacred after all – and we’re talking vey public demonstrations here, folks – then all the talk about the horror of Lars and Bruce down the street getting married to each other seems a bit overblown. No one likes a drama queen. Get off the stage. And if you think marriage is so sacred, attend to your own, if you still have one. And Lars and Bruce would probably stay married, not like you.

Ah well, one should not expect that. And the problem is bigger than this issue of marriage. Ta-Nehisi Coates explains:

The religious right isn’t what’s wrong with the GOP. It’s the pervasive, unthinking, unreflective nationalism. It’s the arrogance of thrice-divorced adulterers reaching for the banner of traditional families, and it’s the arrogance of men who prosecuted a poorly planned war, on weak intelligence, presuming to lecture us on national security.

What are you going to do with such folks?

You can wait for them to implode, as Rush Limbaugh does in this audio clip. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford cheated on his wife, and betrayed his family, and abandoned his professional responsibilities to fly off to Argentina – all of that. It’s all true. No one can deny it. But really, it’s President Obama’s fault that he did:

This is almost like, “I don’t give a damn, the country’s going to Hell in a hand basket, I just want out of here.” … He had just tried to fight the stimulus money coming to South Carolina. He didn’t want any part of it; he lost the battle. He said, “What the hell. I mean, the federal government’s taking over – what the hell, I want to enjoy life.”

The idea seems to be that Obama has driven the good people in this world into existential despair – nothing matters anymore, and there is no hope. So do anything that occurs to you. Burn the house down. Why not?

The point is, there are a lot of people whose spirit is just – they’re fed up, saying, “To hell with it, I don’t even want to fight this anymore, I just want to get away from it.”

Steve Benen comments:

I remember, when Enron and other corporate scandals first broke during Bush’s first term, some conservatives argued that the scandals were Bill Clinton’s fault – not because of lax regulations, but because the Lewinsky scandal sent an “anything goes” signal to the nation, which in turn led business leaders to abandon their ethical standards.

It was a reminder that, when it comes to the right’s drive to blame unrelated events on Democratic presidents, conservatives’ creativity and imagination are practically limitless.

And Benen adds that a listener sent Limbaugh an email during the program, asking if he was kidding about the White House’s economic policies being responsible for Sanford’s affair. Rush said “No!” He wasn’t kidding at all. He knows that Sanford realized the awful truth – “The Democrats are destroying the country; we can’t do anything to stop it.” Yep, it’s the end of everything, do what you want.


What’s especially funny about this is the way in which Limbaugh’s attempts to pass the buck and shift the blame – Mark Sanford isn’t responsible for his own behavior, Barack Obama is responsible for Sanford’s behavior – is that it can be applied to practically any situation. Any time anyone does anything wrong, following Limbaugh’s logic, he/she could simply chalk it up to Obama-driven despair.

Remember when conservatives used to say that liberals were opposed to people taking responsibility for their own actions? Good times, good times.

Joe Conason carries that further in a piece in Salon, arguing that conservatives are just liberals in right-wing drag:

The proof is in the penance, or lack thereof, inflicted on the likes of Mark Sanford, John Ensign and David Vitter, to cite a few names from the top of a long, long list. For ideologues who value biblical morality and believe in the efficacy of punishment, modern conservatives are as tolerant of their famous sinners as the jaded libertines of the left. Even after confessing to the most flagrant and colorful fornication, the worst that a conservative must anticipate is a stern scolding, followed by warm assurances of God’s forgiveness and a swift return to business as usual.

And that is the Dreaded Doom of Moral Relativism – saying that well, maybe that one thing is okay, given the circumstances:

Mark Sanford may have forfeited his presidential ambitions, but the South Carolina governor seems determined to hold onto his office despite his escapade in Argentina – and if he is thrown out, the reason will be his offenses against good government rather than his betrayal of his marriage vows. John Ensign isn’t expected to step down from the Senate, despite the mounting evidence that he concealed his extramarital affair through the misuse of public funds; even now he remains more popular than fellow Nevadan Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader. And then there is David Vitter, the Louisiana bon vivant whose evangelical constituents seem inclined to reward him for consorting with prostitutes by giving him another Senate term.

They may have earned retribution, but… well, stuff happens. Conason points out that the proper penalty for adultery is death by stoning – it’s right there in your Bible. But thanks to the moral relativism these guys abhor, no one is suggesting that – some things in The Bible are literally true, and some are, well, metaphoric. These guys choose which, depending on the circumstances.

But they are always “screaming about the iniquity of the opposition.” Conason reviews that:

As understood by conservative commentators, this is not mere rhetoric but a theory of civilization’s rise and fall. Ann Coulter believes that liberals actively “seek to destroy morality” by “refusing to condemn what societies have condemned for thousands of years,” including “promiscuity” and “divorce.” Dinesh D’Souza once recommended sarcastically that the Democrats adopt the mantle of “moral degeneracy” by forthrightly advocating “divorce, illegitimacy, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality and pornography.”

The supposed depravity of the Democratic Party has long been a favorite theme of conservatives, dating back to the rise of Newt Gingrich, who distributed an official campaign lexicon to Republican congressional candidates that featured such defining insults as “decadent,” “permissive,” “sick,” “selfish” and, of course, “liberal.” Back then the Georgia Republican was on his second marriage and carrying on a clandestine affair with the young Capitol Hill clerk who would eventually become his third wife (after he converted to Catholicism and had his union with wife No. 2 annulled). In 2007, he admitted on James Dobson’s radio show that he was cheating on wife No. 2 with future wife No. 3 while he was publicly chastising President Clinton for consorting with Monica Lewinsky. Gingrich has remained a consistent favorite among his pious comrades.

Today, in fact, Gingrich is fully rehabilitated as a party spokesman, still nurturing presidential ambitions.

So the other guys, the Democrats, are morally reprehensible, but our guys not only get a pass, they get respect and glory. So if Sanford resigns and Ensign goes to jail, each will think this in unfair. They did everything right, as Conason notes:

For more than a decade, Ensign lent his name to Promise Keepers, the all-male Christian prayer movement run by a former Colorado football coach, whose mass rallies highlighted men’s integrity, purity and uncompromising domination of family life. Both he and Sanford have worked closely with the Family, a secretive Christian fellowship on Capitol Hill that maintains a brick townhouse where Ensign and other members of Congress have resided. Over the years both men have won the highest marks from the Family Research Council, the Christian Coalition and the American Family Association – and until the other day, Sanford was featured as an invited speaker at the Family Research Council’s upcoming Values Voters Summit 2009. (As Pam Spaulding and Think Progress noted, however, the FRC removed his photo from the summit Web site immediately following his confessional press conference.)

It doesn’t seem fair, and ironically, that’s not the way things work on the immoral/amoral/evil Democratic side of things:

…while Vitter, Ensign, Gingrich and perhaps Sanford have been able to retain their positions and political viability, the same cannot be said for the most recent offenders on the progressive side. Neither Eliot Spitzer nor John Edwards, each among the most promising figures in the Democratic Party, will ever be a candidate for public office again, although their misbehavior was no worse than what their Republican counterparts did.

Conason come to this logical conclusion:

If they looked honestly at themselves, religious conservatives might notice that they are morally lax, socially permissive and casually tolerant of moral deviancy – just like the liberals they despise.

It might be time to lighten up, guys. People are starting to laugh at you. When the fire-and-brimstone preacher offers resounding words on the nature of sin and weeps that we all may, with God’s grace, remain pure, and thunders against those who just don’t understand and BELIEVE in the pure good righteously facing down the pure evil – and the folks in the pews start giggling – it’s over. Core values are fine – everyone has them. But being a buffoon and bully about your own moral superiority just gets old real fast.

And lighten up on Mark Sanford. He’s doing the best he can.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
This entry was posted in Farah Fawcett, Life in Hollywood, Mark Stanford, Michael Jackson, Photography, Republicans and Sex, Rush Limbaugh and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Core Values and Moral Relativism

  1. mim says:

    I’d like to comment further when I have time to read and digest this post, but for now, it’s Farrah Fawcett.

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