America's Crisis of Character
I have selected a very insightful and passionate article to share with you this month. The piece was written by Peggy Noonan, who is one of my favorite social commentators and culture watchers. She regularly “sees” what others fail to notice, and then conveys her observations with the precision of a laser.
In a recent column, Peggy described the depravity and moral decay that is seeping from the pores of our once-great nation. Read it and weep over what is slipping away.
America’s Crisis of Character
The nation seems to be on the wrong track, and not just economically.
People in politics talk about the right track/wrong track numbers as an indicator of public mood. This week Gallup had a poll showing only 24% of Americans feel we're on the right track as a nation. That's a historic low. Political professionals tend, understandably, to think it's all about the economy—unemployment, foreclosures, we're going in the wrong direction. I've long thought that public dissatisfaction is about more than the economy, that it's also about our culture, or rather the flat, brute, highly sexualized thing we call our culture.
Now I'd go a step beyond that. I think more and more people are worried about the American character—who we are and what kind of adults we are raising.
Every story that has broken through the past few weeks has been about who we are as a people. And they are all disturbing.
A tourist is beaten in Baltimore. Young people surround him and laugh. He's pummeled, stripped and robbed. No one helps. They're too busy taping it on their smartphones. That's how we heard their laughter. The video is on YouTube along with the latest McDonald's beat-down and the latest store surveillance tapes of flash mobs. Groups of teenagers swarm into stores, rob everything they can, and run out. The phenomenon is on the rise across the country. Police now have a nickname for it: "flash robs."
That's just the young, you say. Juvenile delinquency is as old as history.
Let's turn to adults. Also starring on YouTube this week was the sobbing woman. She's the poor traveler who began to cry great heaving sobs when a Transportation Security Administration agent at the Madison, Wis., airport either patted her down or felt her up, depending on your viewpoint and experience. Jim Hoft of TheGatewayPundit.com recorded it, and like all the rest of the videos it hurts to watch. When the TSA agent—an adult, a middle aged woman—was done, she just walked away, leaving the passenger alone and uncomforted, like a tourist in Baltimore.
There is the General Services Administration scandal. An agency devoted to efficiency is outed as an agency of mindless bread-and-circuses indulgence. They had a four-day regional conference in Las Vegas, with clowns and mind readers.
The reason the story is news, and actually upsetting, is not that a government agency wasted money. That is not news. The reason it's news is that the people involved thought what they were doing was funny, and appropriate. In the past, bureaucratic misuse of taxpayer money was quiet. You needed investigators to find it, trace it, expose it. Now it's a big public joke. They held an awards show. They sang songs about the perks of a government job: "Brand new computer and underground parking and a corner office. . . . Love to the taxpayer. . . . I'll never be under OIG investigation." At the show, the singer was made Commissioner for a Day. "The hotel would like to talk to you about paying for the party that was held in the commissioner's suite last night" the emcee said. It got a big laugh.
On the "red carpet" leading into the event, GSA chief Jeffrey Neely said: "I am wearing an Armani." One worker said, "I have a talent for drinking Margaritas. . . . It all began with the introduction of performance measures." That got a big laugh, too. All the workers looked affluent, satisfied. Only a generation ago, earnest, tidy government bureaucrats were spoofed as drudges and drones. Not anymore. Now they're way cool. Immature, selfish and vain, but way cool.
Their leaders didn't even pretend to have a sense of mission and responsibility. They reminded me of the story a year ago of the dizzy captain of a U.S. Navy ship who made off-color videos and played them for his crew. He wasn't interested in the burdens of leadership—the need to be the adult, the uncool one, the one who maintains standards. No one at GSA seemed interested in playing the part of the grown-up, either.
Why? Why did they think this is OK? They seemed mildly decadent. Or proudly decadent. In contrast to you, low, toiling taxpayer that you are, poor drudges and drones.
There is the Secret Service scandal. That one broke through too, and you know the facts: overseas to guard the president, sent home for drinking, partying, picking up prostitutes.
What's terrible about this story is that for anyone who's ever seen the Secret Service up close it's impossible to believe. The Secret Service are the best of the best. That has been their reputation because that has been their reality. They have always been tough, disciplined and mature. They are men, and they have the most extraordinary job: take the bullet.
Remember when Reagan was shot? That was Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy who stood there like a stone wall, and took one right in the gut. Jerry Parr pushed Reagan into the car, and Mr. Parr was one steely-eyed agent. Reagan coughed up a little blood, and Mr. Parr immediately saw its color was a little too dark. He barked the order to change direction and get to the hospital, not the White House, and saved Reagan's life. From Robert Caro's "Passage of Power," on Secret Service agent Rufus Youngblood, Nov. 22, 1963: "there was a sharp, cracking sound," and Youngblood, "whirling in his seat," grabbed Vice President Lyndon Johnson and threw him to the floor of the car, "shielding his body with his own."
In any presidential party, the Secret Service guys are the ones who are mature, who you can count on, who'll keep their heads. They have judgment, they're by the book unless they have to rewrite it on a second's notice. And they wore suits, like adults.
This week I saw a picture of agents in Colombia. They were in T-shirts, wrinkled khakis and sneakers. They looked like a bunch of mooks, like slobs, like children with muscles.
Special thanks to the person who invented casual Friday. Now it's casual everyday in America. But when you lower standards people don't decide to give you more, they give you less.
In New York the past week a big story has been about 16 public school teachers who can't be fired even though they've acted unprofessionally. What does "unprofessionally" mean in New York? Sex with students, stalking students, and, in one case, standing behind a kid, simulating sex, and saying, "I'll show you what gay is."
The kids in the flash mobs: These are their teachers.
Finally, as this column goes to press, the journalistic story of the week, the Los Angeles Times's decision to publish pictures of U.S. troops in Afghanistan who smilingly posed with the bloody body parts of suicide bombers. The soldier who brought the pictures to the Times told their veteran war correspondent, David Zucchino, that he was, in Zucchino's words, "very concerned about what he said was a breakdown in . . . discipline and professionalism" among the troops.
In isolation, these stories may sound like the usual sins and scandals, but in the aggregate they seem like something more disturbing, more laden with implication, don't they? And again, these are only from the past week.
The leveling or deterioration of public behavior has got to be worrying people who have enough years on them to judge with some perspective.
Something seems to be going terribly wrong.
Maybe we have to stop and think about this.1
Peggy Noonan’s words bring tears to my eyes. I love this country more than I can describe, with its Constitution and the Bill of Rights handed down to us from our Founding Fathers. There has never been a nation to compare with the USA, but let us not be naïve or put our heads in the sand – it is changing before our eyes.
My concern goes much deeper than the loss of freedom and cultural identity. The crisis of character about which Peggy wrote is fueled by immorality and spiritual decay. It is the root cause of violence, selfishness, greed, materialism, rape, infidelity, and all manner of evil. In short, America is forgetting God and abandoning its fundamental beliefs. I ask you to join me in refusing to accept this dangerous and escalating trend.
Peggy listed several recent examples of the American crisis of character, but other news stories in the same month are even more shocking.
Consider a shameful telecast of the “Dr. Phil Show” that aired on April 16th of this year. It featured a mother named Annette Corriveau who made a case for killing her two disabled children by lethal injection. The boys were diagnosed with Sanfilippo syndrome, which causes them to lose motor function and to be institutionalized.
Corriveau only visits her children every two months, and medical workers could have given her a better understanding of what their day-by-day experience was really like. She preferred only that they be deprived of what life they had. I’m sure you are as sickened as I am by this example of supreme parental selfishness.
So Americans, brace yourselves. Barring a spiritual renewal and the uniting of Christians and families in both voice and action in the years to come will bring legalized euthanasia such as the killing of Terry Schiavo, acceptance of physician-assisted suicide, legalized same-sex marriage, a million more abortions every year (added to 50 million babies already dead), legalized drug usage, more filth and perversion in the entertainment industry, continued epidemics of pornography and violence, etc. Or, as Peggy Noonan phrases it, “America’s Crisis of Character.”
I ask you, is this an acceptable cultural legacy to deliver to the next generation of families?
No! We must stand apart from the culture in our everyday lives. We must take action now to support and restore biblical family values in our homes, our churches, and in our community. We must demand that when our elected leaders represent us, that they also represent our values. When they do not, they must be replaced post-haste. This is a new reality that we can begin working towards, today.
I’m often asked how parents and influential adults can impact the character of our nation. Here’s a place to start: It's time to teach “old-fashioned” principles of morality to our children . . . not just because it's the only safe approach, but because it's right.
In the first chapters of my book, Dare to Discipline, I discussed the importance of the child's respect for his parents. I wrote,
His attitude toward their leadership is critical to his acceptance of their values and philosophy, including their concept of premarital sexual behavior. Likewise, the most fundamental element in teaching morality can be achieved through a healthy parent-child relationship during the early years. The obvious hope is that the adolescent will respect and appreciate his parents enough to believe what they say and accept what they recommend.
Unfortunately, however, this loyalty to parents is often an insufficient source of motivation. It is my firm conviction that children should also be taught ultimate loyalty to Jesus Christ. We should make it clear that the merciful God of love whom we serve is also a God of justice. If we choose to defy His moral laws we will suffer certain consequences. God's spiritual imperatives are as inflexible as His physical laws. Those who defy those physical laws will not long survive. Likewise, the willful violation of God's commandments is equally disastrous, for "the wages of sin is death." An adolescent who understands this truth is more likely to live a moral life in the midst of an immoral society.”2
So, we must both teach the truth of Christ and provide living examples of morality, faith, and the character we wish to see in the next generation. Let us not travel the path of destruction of the past. This is the way Jehovah described wickedness of ancient Israel in the words of the prophet Isaiah.
“Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:13b-17
Lord, bless this great nation and forgive us for our grievous sins and rebellious spirit. Return to us the joy of our salvation and make us again a people of character. That is the prayer of our hearts.
Family Talk will not only continue to work for the preservation of the family, but for the restoration of righteousness in the culture. We are here to support you in the noble cause of building and maintaining God-honoring families. Call us. Email us. Join us on the social networks. Use the many free resources provided each month at drjamesdobson.org. Visit us in our offices. We want to hear from you!
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James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
President and Founder
1 Peggy Noonan article reprinted with the express permission of the author.
2 Dare to Discipline copyright info. Chapter 10, pg 228
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