The odd remnants of our old, outmoded Puritan past

September 06, 1996|By Cal Thomas

WASHINGTON -- What is wrong with what presidential campaign adviser Dick Morris is alleged to have done with a $200-per-hour prostitute? Why did Mr. Morris feel that he had to resign after reports of his dealings with Sherry Rowlands became front-page news?

I certainly hope no one will suggest that what he is alleged to have done was wrong. By what or whose standard? And even if someone were to acknowledge that such a standard exists, we can't impose a moral code on people, can we?

Pluralistic standards

That's because there are some (like Mr. Morris) who obviously do not share it, and today we are taught that to impose morality is a terrible thing, far worse than the immoral act itself. (Although we would be hard-pressed to define an immoral act in our pluralistic, tolerant, open-minded society.)

Besides, to impose a moral code would be a violation of church-state separation as defined by the Supreme Court's misinterpretations of the Constitution, wouldn't it? If public officials can separate what they do in private from their public responsibilities, why can't we surmise that private officials can separate what they do in private from the influence and image they convey to a public official? Isn't this what we've heard from the defenders of such politicians as John F. Kennedy, Gary Hart and Bill Clinton -- all reported to have had extramarital dalliances?

Peculiar how some things linger from our outdated, outmoded Puritan past, isn't it? Sixteen years after the Supreme Court ruled that posting the Ten Commandments in public schools is unconstitutional, some people dare to hold a man accountable for violating the commandment against adultery. How silly during a week in which the U.S. Senate debated ''gay marriage.''

A way to cut the crime rate

Why not validate everything? Think of how the crime rate would plummet if the illegal were made legal. That's what former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders proposed be done with some drugs.

And why not, if there is no God who we once believed set boundaries on life? If we are just matter and energy shaped by pure chance in a random universe with no Creator and no purpose and no origin or destination -- a little more complex than a cabbage, but of no greater moral significance -- why shouldn't we be allowed to behave as we wish, however we wish, with whomever we wish?

Isn't it hypocritical for a culture that promotes the joys of promiscuous sexual activity on television, in films, on newsstands -- and that uses sex to sell products from beer to cars -- to then play ''gotcha'' when the weak among us are seduced by that culture's messages?

Don't we have to make a choice between a sexual standard to which all should conform (at least in principle if not always in practice) or no standard, with each of us free to do as he or she pleases?

If we can't, or won't, decide, then we should allow Dick Morris back into the political mainstream, tell him he did nothing wrong and counsel his wife that there is no reason to be upset and that she should feel free to do the same thing. If Pee-wee Herman and Jimmy Swaggart can attempt comebacks, why not Dick Morris?

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 9/06/96

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