Monday, November 29, 2004

US "Moral Values"

"Moral values" is one of those semi-literate phrases, built on redundancy in case you just don't get it. It's like saying "empty vacuities". Values are morals, and vica versa. Putting that pedantic gripe aside, two pieces of note are George Lakoff's On Moral Values and Bruce Rich's The Great Indecency Hoax.

Lakoff writes:

If we [progressives] communicate our values clearly, most people will recognize them as their own, personally more authentic and more deeply American than those put forth by conservatives. At the very least they will see progressives as having deeply held, traditional American principles. This would be a huge step forward from the present state, in which conservatives are seen as having a monopoly on "values" and progressives are framed as the party of "if it feels good, do it," with no higher principles. (Our Moral Values, The Nation, 6 Dec)

Rich writes:

The mainstream press, itself in love with the "moral values" story line and traumatized by the visual exaggerations of the red-blue map, is too cowed to challenge the likes of the American Family Association. So are politicians of both parties. It took a British publication, The Economist, to point out that the percentage of American voters citing moral and ethical values as their prime concern is actually down from 2000 (35 percent) and 1996 (40 percent). (New York Times, 28 Nov)

Something’s clearly awry with American moral values. In an article that this time goes deeper than either Laskoff or Rich, Naomi Klein is at her best (which is all too unusual) when she writes:
Yes, that's right: letter-writers from across the nation are united in their outrage – not that the steely-eyed smoking soldier makes mass killing look cool, but that the laudable act of mass killing makes the grave crime of smoking look cool. (Kerry and the Gift of Impunity, The Nation 29 Nov) .

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