A nation with a faint moral pulse

Barbara Samson Mills

March 02, 1992|By Barbara Samson

THE DAY AMERICA TOLD THE TRUTH. By James Patterson and Peter Kim. Prentice Hall. 270 pages. $19.95. IS AMERICA really the mom-and-apple-pie country it is made out to be? Not according to Messrs. Patterson and Kim, who set out to take the "moral pulse" of America in the "largest survey of private morals ever undertaken."

The authors based their interviews on the premise that most people want to tell someone what they really think -- without consequences. In the questionnaires and interviews, anonymity was guaranteed; hence, we're to believe, the participants let down their BarbaraSamsonMillsguard. "No national study had ever been done on what Americans really think and believe," the authors claim.

The findings are mind-boggling:

Women are believed morally superior to men, yet there are few women leaders. In fact, Americans believe there are virtually no leaders in politics, religion or business. Most Americans are without a moral code and are making their own rules as they go along; young American men are responsible for most crime and, on the whole, are a "violent, untrustworthy and undependable group."

Sixty percent of Americans have been victimized by crime.

Despite the high rate of purchase of Japanese products, or perhaps because of it, Americans believe that the country basically belongs to the Japanese. There is no longer a feeling of a cohesive community and family. Child abuse is rampant among all economic classes, and a large percentage of children lose their virginity before the age of 13. Marriage no longer works for almost half of American couples, aged parents are neglected by children, there are no business ethics. America is the most violent industrialized nation on the earth.

The American dream is to be rich and thin, according to the

survey. Americans are troubled by adultery, premarital sex and abortion, though they indulge in all three freely. There are only a few American heroes who are seen as "good": Carol Burnett, Barbara Bush, Joe Montana.

America is a "Jekyll and Hyde" nation, the authors say. "People across the nation confessed that violent desires obsessively force their way into their minds." Many act on their impulses, aping their role models, Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood and others who "express themselves with weapons."

The work ethic has become a myth; medicine, law and business are considered "greed occupations" and never "have so many taken so much off the top . . . American workers are as disloyal to their jobs as their bosses and companies are perceived to be disloyal to them."

The list goes on. Are we to believe it? The survey found 91 percent of Americans lie regularly. But the authors would have us believe that those Americans they surveyed told them the truth!

Barbara Samson Mills writes from Monkton.

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