Americans say the country as it stands today is worse off morally than in past years — and worse off, morally speaking, to a tune that’s never before seen.
Can’t say this is surprising. It’s not rocket science, people. Won’t be long before America’s Rome, Redux — you know, the empire that fell due to its moral deprivation?
When the culture becomes one of rot, it’s not long until the behaviors and patterns of its people become similarly rotten. These things are circular, where one feeds the other — where the morals feed the culture feed the politics feed the morals feed the culture, and so forth.
The change may come in dribs and drabs, and take generations. But it comes, all the same.
Since the 1960s, for example, statistics guiding out-of-wedlock birthrates have soared from around 24 percent for blacks and 3 percent for whites to 64 percent in 1990 for blacks and 18 percent for whites. Why?
Well, in part, because the stigma of unmarried sex has been removed.
America’s gone from a society of wait-‘til-you’re-married expectations to first-date hookups followed by morning-after pills. Sex is recreational, like dining out and catching a movie, or getting together for racquetball.
And America’s entertainment, America’s TV shows, both reflect and feed that mindset. Can you imagine, for instance, the mom on the 1950s-era “Leave It To Beaver” handing son Wally a condom as he leaves the house for a night of fun with his friend Eddie? Heck, a modern-day version of that same show wouldn’t just have Beaver’s mom and dad divorced. It would also play on the title to suggest scripts filled with casual sex and vulgarity.
Lucy and Ricky’s separate on-camera beds? That’s today’s comedic scene, in and of itself. Yesterday’s “I Love Lucy” sitcom has morphed into today’s “Two and a Half Men,” where the bedroom of star Charlie Sheen’s character is an open and revolving door of one-night partners.
So goes the moral compass of the people, so goes the popular culture — so goes the political system, as well.
Related topics like abortion and homosexuality, once regarded as the stuff of secrets and shame, or at least personal and preserved as topics to discuss with best friends only, have come out of the corner, come out of the closet, and crossed into the line of openly discussed, openly flaunted, openly and even, in some respects, publicly and taxpayer-funded. Culture breeds politics? Ask Planned Parenthood; ask the military’s transgenders under Barack Obama.
The good news is that those with sex addictions, unwanted pregnancies, unwelcome homosexual tendencies — those with abusive pasts that fuel negative and harmful and immoral behaviors and habits — can come forward to receive whatever help they want without having to suffer the righteous indignation, mocking or persecution of fools and hypocrites.
The bad news is that cultural ills have now become so understood and tolerated, they’ve become accepted and normalized. The pendulum has swung wide on that.
Transgender? So’s that guy. Pregnant at 16? So’s my friend — here’s her abortionist’s number. Morals? The notion of standard moral behavior? Going, going, gone.
“Americans have always viewed the state of U.S. morals more negatively than positively. But the latest figures are the worst to date, with a record-high 49 percent rating values as poor and a record-tying-low 14 percent rating them as excellent or good,” Gallup reported. “[I]n 10 of the past 12 annual polls since 2007, Americans have been decidedly more likely to rate it as poor. … When asked whether U.S. moral values are getting better or worse, Americans have consistently said they are worsening.”
Fully 77 percent now say moral values in the country are getting worse. That’s nothing to sneeze at. So some solutions?
Stop watching culturally rotten shows and feeding advertisers dollars that support such entertainment. Stop hitting the shopping malls for Sunday sales and head to church, instead. Stop teaching kids that an anything-goes culture is OK — that whatever feels good at the moment is the right path to walk.
Virtues, morals and principles don’t come naturally; they must be taught. And a nation that accepts the worst of humankind as normal — Rome anyone? — rather than pushing and pressing for the best, the highest, the most inspirational, sets itself on a path of depravity and destruction.
Polls suggest most in America agree.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley.