Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I have a particular problem with the word, "moral."  In fact, I would prefer that people didn't use it - not because I think that morality has no place in the 21st century, but because I hate to see one little word so consistently misused and pointed, weapon-like, at people who are different - or even, God forbid, human, and entitled to the basic rights given us by nature and by our government. Having morals, now, is like taking an oath of office in South Carolina. And I want no part of that. 

I've recently been enduring driver's education classes. In our most recent meeting, the curriculum focused on operator errors - most significantly, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I've heard all of this information before, of course - that the choice to drive while impaired is, in fact, a choice, and that what we may do with our cars after a night of indulgence is, no matter what state of induced unconsciousness, still dangerous, and still a crime. I have no problem accepting this - as terrified of driving as I am, it seems unbelievable to turn on that metal giant of possibilities with even the slightest possibility of error. 

That said, people do make mistakes. In fact, most of my classmates were all too ready to dismiss the results of drunk driving as unintentional.  Of course, no one gets into their car with the purpose of murder and mayhem - most of us, I hope, do not wish to cause injury to others. I don't, and despite the level of sniggering and posturing in my driver's ed class, I need to believe that the typical human response to the idea of injury and death is to turn away and make a better choice. 

But, at eight on a Monday night, when we would all rather be anywhere else, I found myself surrounded by questions of intent - questions, in a way, of what constitutes morality. My classmates spent a solid chunk of time just trying to figure out if unintentional death was murder or manslaughter, if impaired drivers were ever really at fault for the consequences of their actions. 

We are increasingly living in a society that divides itself along lines of morality. And after delving into a pure lack of sympathy, of realization, of responsibility for someone else's death, I wondered if the kind of morality that dictates love, personal health, religion, is something that negates what I would consider the true morality - human decency, compassion, and flat out common sense. To make it simple - if we are all so concerned with restricting sex, restricting women's rights, restricting the good a government can do for its people, aren't we losing track of morality? Aren't we forgetting to teach our kids that morality is about love and empathy and respect? Don't we all suffer if the students at this or any driving school are more concerned with what charge might be brought rather than the reality of killing someone with their car?

And, of course, this - how can we, shapers of a message, voters in a democracy, drivers of our cars, accept that young people are so concerned with partying and denying culpability because that message we shape coins morality as the word which means denying sex, denying femininity, and denying compassion? How can we be such professors of hate and such apologists of, it's okay, murder is okay, if you didn't mean it. But love, if you mean it, is abominable. 

Conservatives, at least the most vocal and accessible, talk a lot about the personal. And it isn't just the sex, it's the idea of bootstraps, and the idea of poverty, and the mad thought that the government couldn't possibly care for people if they should care for themselves. It is the idea that they have no responsibility, not for themselves, their hate speech, and the welfare of the people around them. Well, heck. I've seen the consequences.  I've seen young people who want to get messed up and kill people and not be held responsible. This, this is what you are teaching. 

These are your children, and they see what you do.  And they can be heartless. And they can imagine no sorrow. And they know the word, "slut." And they drink, and they drive, cool and flitting like the blue of a dragonfly. And yes, they have sex, and yes, they are questioning, and yes, they seek a high. And they have no compassion. And their hope is for exculpation. And they are not guilty. 

We need to reclaim morality.  If we need to frame it in words of faith, we need to reclaim awe and reverence. If we should frame it in words of government, we must reclaim hope and equality. And, if we are to be blunt -

Let people love, and make one last end to fear. 

Let us be responsible and revere life. 

Let us be with the ones we love. Let us be safe. Let us be taught compassion. 

Don't drink and drive. And as for whom we hold, it isn't any of your business. 

1 comment:

  1. I find morality to be a loaded word, I much prefer to think of the things you describe as matters of ethics, honor, and decency. That said, I, as always, agree with your sentiment. I hope to see you when I am back home for the holiday.