Thursday, November 23, 2017

Who, Exactly, Is Obsessed?

Grim discusses whether Republicans should remain beholden to an "antiquated morality" or just drop some of it in the interests of electing some otherwise good candidates. Good comments.

I go to an evangelical church and talk often with a Catholic friend at work who is involved in youth ministries in her parish, and somewhat on a larger scale. Youth leaders make sure that something is covered about sexual behavior over the course of the year, but other than that, I don't hear anyone talking about it much.  Stray comments. I do recall that the subject came up more often at the Christian schools my children went to, but I'm not sure it was so prominent as children's impressions are, nor what they recall later. There would be a week with a video series, and Bible classes would veer that way pretty often, but I am guessing, based on observation, that it was the students themselves who kept those fires burning bright. Because teenagers. The tension between their school's views and the prevailing secular views was a large topic to them.  When they would bring it up to faculty I imagine it was sometimes hard for teachers at such schools to deflect back to other topics.  They knew what the expectation was in terms of advocating for standards.

Yet the amount of conversation that was school-initiated may not have been as great as is assumed.

I recall during the Clinton impeachment that the accusations were particularly common.  Yet it was my impression that the Republicans kept bringing up the lying, while the Democrats kept excusing the sex, insisting that this was the issue Republicans really cared about. I said then and I'll say now: I think that's completely backward. That is a cartoon. Liberals are obsessed with defending, excusing, or even touting sex outside of marriage. (Not all, and some Republicans now join them - I recognise that I am generalising.) Conservatives consider it one aspect of morality among many, and have a fair bit of complexity in their views in relating purely moral versus practical issues and reflections on mercy, kindness, judgement, accountability, and forgiveness.

I wish I had worked with the word "cartoon" when I reviewed and discussed True Patriot almost a decade ago. It's clearer and more accurate than what I did say then.


Christopher B said...

People being fallen, and given the configuration of the sexual/marriage marketplace over the last 50 years, it's going to be harder and harder to find candidates whose sexual history fits the Ward and June Cleaver ideal, both male and female. I don't think it's even so much that these behaviors were less common in the past but now we are much more willing to talk about them. The willingness to speak, and ways that speaking are rewarded, doesn't help sift the wheat of serious wrongs from the chaff of simply socially ambiguous situations.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Whether the behaviors are more reported or more common will be worth a post of its own, I think. The short answer is some of both, according to what I have read.

Aggie - said...

That's an interesting comment, I wonder when anyone's sexual history has fit the Cleaver model - whatever that really is?

I think that 1950's sensibilities were mainly the product of a cohort of young American's deep gratitude and relief at having survived a world war, and after that, a Korean conflict, coupled with a strong undercurrent of Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder in the surviving combatants, which was then recognized as a set of odd behaviors, correctly linked to war experiences, and mostly accommodated individually but not treated.

I think the 1960's counterculture fundamentally mis-characterized this grieving and coping mechanism as cultural shallowness and contemptible falseness.

Maybe all this is too simplistic and over-generalizing, but what Conservatives mostly want is somebody who has enough personal integrity to tell the truth, admit their mistakes, celebrate their victories, and have enough backbone and wit to tell adversaries to buzz off.

What you're saying about the Clinton impeachment is the way I recall it too. Liberally minded people simply couldn't believe that a normal individual could take umbrage at being lied to, or that receiving fellatio from an intern while conducting the business of office on the telephone could be interpreted as a deeply disturbing manifestation of personal corruption.

Texan99 said...

Cheating on your wife with a much younger woman who works for you and is completely starstruck--it's difficult for me to see how anyone wouldn't find that tawdry and a bit creepy. I don't think the thing that was toe-curling for a lot of us was the shocking notion that a man without any particular convictions about chastity might be having extramarital sex. Remember the movie "The American President"? There was lots of winking at the idea that a widowed President might be having a sexual relationship with a woman close to his own age who was obviously capable of taking care of herself and for whom he clearly had a lot of respect and affection, not to mention a general intention of forming a strong and loyal bond. It was the wish-fulfillment version of Clinton, and let audiences see themselves as properly indulgent and broadminded without having to confront what was so icky about our actual president.

Honestly, the kindest thoughts I ever had about Clinton were after reading the Starr report. Clinton came across as deeply conflicting about carrying on with Lewinsky, instead of callous or crowing. It was the first time I took him seriously as an adult man. He seemed to realize he had no business taking advantage of her crush. I had assumed he thought she was a birds nest on the ground, another handy piece of meat.

james said...

I thought better and worse of him after reading the report. I got the impression of man who was trying to put a few limits on his extramarital activities: "OK, I'll go this far but no further."

What struck me as damning was his attitude towards focus groups--"Should I tell the truth or not?" The poll numbers mattered more to him than the truth.

And then, of course, the way the laundering machinery kicked into gear to offer nice jobs to the cooperative...

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think both things were true about Clinton.

Mitterand dies in 1996, and many Americans, then and later, nodded approvingly about how open the French were about him having a mistress. The French understand these things, you know. But I have a different take. It's not modern and enlightened, it is primitive. Powerful men get to have sex with whoever they want - multiple women, children, other men. That's true among Maoris, sheiks, and medieval Lords. There was never any interruption of this in France - the current practice is merely descended from the earlier one.

That women (and men) choose this role for themselves as a means to power, or at least comfort and safety removes the sin of violence from it, I grant, and makes the advantage-taking a least a little mutual. But it still reeks.

bs king said...

Given that I was actually at the school your sons went to during the impeachment (my junior/senior year), I feel compelled to comment. As you know, I am not given to be overly flattering of that particular school's approach to much of anything, but that being said...

They handled this well. We had a ton of good conversations in our history/civics classes, and I thought the discussion ranged widely from the sexual accusations to perjury to the implications of impeachment. In comparison to my friends who went to other schools, I actually felt like I got a pretty good education on this one. Credit where credit is due.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Glad to hear it. We can't re-run the experiment to see if they would have done as well with a conservative president.

Your statement brings up something from that era that just occurs to me. There was a tie-in that was common then that we don't hear anymore: someone who would break his wedding promises to his wife and to God can't be trusted to tell the truth about anything. That is oversimplified, as people can remain rigidly moral in some areas while being all over the place in others, but in the longest of long runs, that may be true. It's a very Screwtape/Great Divorce idea, that any single sin will gradually attract everything else to it (and thus we should be glad we don't live for centuries). I don't hear that anymore.

Grim said...

I wouldn't have said that "someone who would break his wedding promises to his wife and to God can't be trusted to tell the truth about anything." That's too strong. They might well tell the truth about lots of things, e.g., what they had for breakfast; their opinion on the NCAA tournaments; the weather; aesthetic preferences.

The issue is that the Oath of Office is the same sort of sacred oath as the wedding vow. You don't take many sacred oaths in your lifetime. If you show that you feel free to violate the one, you might well be expected to feel free to violate the other. That's a pretty good reason to deny you a job, or a security clearance, that depends on the faithful execution of the oath.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I also think it is too categorical. I do notice that no one talks like that anymore, but we tended to then.