Sunday, November 07, 2004

On Moral Values

Moral values is a religiously correct (R.C.) term for defining rightwing values (no gay marriage, no choice for women, a certain kind of hidden racism)as the Good Values. If you don't share these moral values you are a person without any values. You want to kill babies and appease terrorists, where the former is defined to include embryos and fetuses and the latter is defined to include any individuals of Arab countries and/or Muslim religion.

Many have pointed out that even a polite interpretation of the rightwing moral values only includes private values: those that apply to an individual's sexuality or family arrangements. R.C. values appear not to include public values. This may explain why the wingnut politicians are often the most shameless manipulators, liars and crooks. It suffices to sigh deeply over terrible tales of same-sex love or the butchering of innocent zygotes, whereas the deaths of Iraqi civilians from babies to the elderly can be passed over as just one unfortunate side-effect of the holy fight against terrorism. It is acceptable to tell the Americans that the country attacked Iraq to keep terrorists away from the United States, and nobody asks why it is ok to move our terrorist problems into the backyards of people who had nothing to do with causing them. Better that they be killed than someone here, perhaps?

The other interesting thing about these R.C. moral values is the odd mix of extreme duality and fuzziness. The wingnuts accuse the rest of us for fuzzy morals, and point out their extreme good versus evil values as the clear and correct ones. Everything must be totally right or totally wrong; thus, the so-called 'partial birth abortion' is totally wrong, even if the fetus is dead in the womb or rapidly dying. But the extra deaths of Iraqi civilians caused by our invasion (as many as 100,000, perhaps) are something fuzzy in value terms: lamentable, yes, but necessary. At the same time, the deaths that Saddam caused during his reign are totally wrong. No ifs and buts about that part. And it is R.C. to argue that anyone who thinks the world is not a better place without Saddam Hussein in power is a treasonist or even a terrorist. God help you if you try to explain that this comparison shouldn't be made as if the choices are 'Saddam in power' and 'perfect Eden', given that perfect Eden is not what is happening in Iraq right now. Then your moral values are terrible and you deserve nothing better than being called a Saddam-lover.

In reality most people have moral values, not just religious people. There is something extremely insulting in the R.C. assumption that only the fear of gods can make you act nicely. I have heard more than one wingnut commentator argue that I can't have any values if I don't believe in the Christian god; after all, what would keep me from acting totally selfishly if there is no eternal punishment? This tells a lot more about the wingnut than it tells about me.

Maybe the right wingers should take stock of their own moral values and consider lengthening their lists with a few more: honesty, compassion and justice. These are not R.C. right now, but they are real values nevertheless.