WHEN WILL THE HEATHEN RAGE?
by Karen Hall
I miss sin.
Iím old enough now that I find myself pining away for a lot of things that
donít exist any more. I miss drive-in theaters. I miss ice cream trucks. I
miss the E Street Band. But what I find myself missing the most these days, much
to my surprise, is sin.
Iím not talking about the wild days of my misspent youth. I miss sin as a
I miss moral outrage. If nothing else, it gave us the illusion that there was
something we could do about gross misconduct or perceived injustices. We could
huff and puff and yell and write letters to the editor. We could shun the
depraved. Every now and then, there would be enough of a grass roots tempest to
launch a "Sixty Minutes" investigation. Those were the days.
I find myself missing the bloodthirsty eye-for-an-eye mentality that used to
give me the willies. These days, I'd settle for baby-toe-for-an-eye. Even a
disgusted sigh would be nice.
I long for the days of yesteryear when murderers were locked up, once
everyone in the country knew they were murderers. Slapping them with a huge fine
in a civil suit just doesnít have the same pizzazz. And remember when murder
suspects were required to go in for questioning? Remember when they couldnít
avoid it by announcing that, well heck, they just didnít want to?
(Pardon my ignorance of the law, but when did that become an option? Iím
sure there are a lot of people in prison who are wondering the same thing.)
And then thereís the government. I miss the days when the admission of a
fifty-two year old married president that heíd had sex with a twenty year-old
underling three feet from the Oval Office would have made his approval rating go
down just a point or two. I remember the uproar caused by Jimmy Carterís
admission that he had lusted after women in his heart. These days that wouldnít
even make CNN.
Somewhere along the way, we have become a nation of moral sloth. Short of
blowing up a day care center, itís impossible to get a rise out of us any
more. Whenever the transition took place, I must have been sleeping. I now find
myself thoroughly out of synch with the rest of the country. I feel like the Rip
Van Winkle of scruples, having suddenly awakened in a land where lying is called
"misleading" and adultery is known as an "inappropriate
Since I know Iím playing catch-up, Iím listening closely to what people
around me are saying. The rationalization that disturbs me the most is that
thereís no point in getting upset over Clintonís misdeeds because everyone
in Washington is corrupt and if we get rid of him, someone just as bad if not
worse will take his place. They say this as if it should comfort me.
See, Iím thinking that if itís true, we should be worried. We should be
yelling for more independent investigations, not whining about being
tired of the ones that already exist. We should be slowing down and asking
ourselves how it got this way and what we can do about it, not champing at the
bit to "move on" and "get about the work of the country."
Which brings me to my next source of irritation. The "move on"
mantra. Clinton and his puppets suddenly sound like crowd control police
("Letís move along, nothing to see hereÖ") or cops whoíve been
bought off and therefore donít want us looking too closely behind the police
They sound that way because thatís what they are.
I offer my admittedly subjective interpretation. "Itís time to move
along" is not coming from a leader. It is coming from a bully.
And answer me this: since when is investigating allegations of illegal conduct
in the presidency not the "work of the country"?
My vote for first runner-up in the disturbing rationalization contest goes
to: "the economy is in good shape therefore I donít care about the
presidentís personal life." (Iíd also like to point out that for my
hard-earned tax-paying dollars, a presidentís "personal life" takes
place in the living quarters or at Camp David, not in the study outside the Oval
Office while foreign heads of state are being treated like patients in a dentistís
I felt hopeful this week for the first time in ages, comforted by the stock
marketís 512 point plunge. Since our integrity is now apparently conditionally
linked to the Dow Jones industrial average, this may be the first sign of the
return of objective morality. Maybe weíre sliding into a recession that will
be bad enough to make us raise an eyebrow or two, or even to once again refer to
hideous behavior as hideous behavior.
Who knows? Another couple of hundred points and we might revive the archaic
concept of ethics.
And if the market does an all out crash and burn...?
We might once again be able to call a sin a sin.