do as I say, not as I do

Back when all those moralistic right-wingers were appalled at that nasty Bill Clinton and the horrible things that slutty Monica Lewinsky did to him that their wives would never do, we heard lots of talk about how it was all the fault of the damned Baby Boomers; that the moral degradation unleashed by hippies’ wanton sexuality had led to a “permissive society” that gave lecherous goats like Clinton the feeling that it was okay to ruin interns’ dresses. Even then that self-righteousness was rather a poor fit – Newt Gingrich, avatar of the right at the time, leader of the 1994 midterm rebellion (remember the “Contract With America”?), back in 1980 had served his first wife divorce papers in her hospital bed after her surgery for uterine cancer – but now that Sarah Palin, Republican vice-presidential nominee, has a 17-year-old unmarried yet pregnant daughter, maybe the idea that liberal parents are to blame for all that licentiousness leading to teen pregnancies will evaporate in the rhetorical haze. Of course, the head of the Republican ticket, John McCain, can’t exactly take the moral high ground here either: McCain was a serial adulterer before starting his affair with Cindy Hensley, for whom he eventually left his wife, also disabled, also in 1980. (That was a really bad year for medically challenged wives of conservatives, apparently.)

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4 Comments

Filed under political, snark

4 responses to “do as I say, not as I do

  1. Anonymous

    Whew! Good thing you aren’t moralistic!

  2. 2fs

    “Moralistic” implies hypocrisy; i.e., the use of moral principles as a screen to hide what are generally selfish motives, often motives at odds with professed morality; or a very narrow view of morality. It does not mean the same as “moral” or “ethical.”

    At any rate, how is what I write “moralistic”? Or are you imagining that the word merely means “making a moral argument with some degree of passion”? Cuz it doesn’t mean that. I just think it’s amusing that a group of people who are quite prone to judge others on their perceived sexual immorality seem incapable of living up to the standards they profess. I’m not even addressing (here) whether I agree or disagree with those moral standards.

  3. Anonymous

    I am using “moralistic” in the simple sense of being rigid in one’s moral beliefs, or judgmental. It’s difficult to leave one’s own morals out of the equation, and you demonstrate this in your statements about McCain. We all do it, no? It’s a human thing, not a conservative thing. Sorry if I offended you with my hamfisted humor.

  4. 2fs

    I’m not “offended” – frankly, I never know what that word means. It seems antiquated, like I’m going to challenge you to a duel or something. But I think you confuse “having principles” with “being rigid” – and perhaps, along with that, morals with ethics. I’m not, in fact, rigidly judgmental about, say, marital ethics: if I weren’t trying to make a rhetorical point about hypocrisy, I might acknowledge that, for both McCain and Gingrich, I do not know the whole story of their respective relationships, and they may have been in such a state that an affair was all but necessary or a divorce a foregone conclusion. (Maybe – from the reaction of Nancy McCain, I doubt it, in that case.)

    As I said: what rubs me the wrong way is the way seemingly so many right-wingers who trumpet “family values” seem not only to have difficulty living up to them (in itself, that’s only human) but act considerably worse than a lot of humans who don’t claim such moral superiority.

    The morals/ethics thing might be illustrated in a non-technical way by the following statement (regardless of its truth): “In Victorian times, it was considered immoral for a woman to reveal her ankles.” That sentence is perfectly comprehensible; however, you can’t sub “ethics” in there and have it make sense: “In Victorian times, it was considered unethical for a woman to reveal her ankles.” That simply makes no sense. “Ethics,” then, implies some sort of interface between the personal and the public, some sort of restraint and public-mindedness versus, say, selfish gain or disregard of others. While “morals” can address those things, in my example it’s clearly much closer to something like a custom, a tradition, a widely held belief.

    I try not to be moralistic. I do try to be ethical. Aside from the hypocrisy what rubs me wrong about McCain’s situation (which, to be fair, I believe he’s acknowledged as something he’s not at all proud of in terms of how he handled it) is how poorly he treated his first wife. It’s not about the sanctity of marital bonds considered in moral terms; it’s about the ethics of how one treats a person one loves and cares about (or purports to, or should do).

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