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Morality Test
Remember the Moral Majority? I do, and you know what? I miss those guys!

They were, of course, birthed under the fundamentalist guidance of Jerry Falwell back in the late 70s, and they were a force on the national political scene for over a decade, working for Republican candidates like Ronald Reagan and Poppy Bush. I don’t honestly miss Jerry himself so much as the morality thing.

Granted, the brand of morality they were pitching wasn‘t my usual cup of probity. Their agenda included such imperatives as school prayer, pro-life (before birth at least), and the squelching of homosexuality in all its manifestations. Farther down the list, however, buried underneath such towering Christian values as opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment and those despicable Strategic Arms Limitation talks, was a firm belief in the concept of “decency.” On that subject, at least, I confess some solidarity with the Moral Majority.

I suppose that the exact parameters of decency would have to be pretty broadly drawn for us to find common ground, but I feel confident that we could at least see eye to eye when it comes to child molesting. It is behavior that can ruin lives as surely as a devastating physical injury, perhaps even more so. It is ugly, it is detestable, it is immoral.

The Moral Majority, as an organization, no longer exists. I’d like to think, though, that its belief in simple human decency is still out there. Including in Alabama. Republican leaders in The Yellowhammer State are shamelessly backing Roy Moore for the U.S. Senate despite the allegations of nine women that he is a predator and a child molester. You might expect that from politicians, but I was surprised to see that a good number of local church leaders are also supporting him. Many “have no reason to disbelieve” his accusers, but they still encourage their flocks to vote for the man who preyed on little girls.

It is my hope that the normal people in Alabama still value decency above craven political advantage. Indeed, I am counting on a moral majority of them to come forward and reject the unrepentant moral ugliness of Roy Moore.

It may be a faint hope. Church and politics are deeply intertwined in Alabama. Jerry Falwell, Jr. his father’s successor as head of Liberty University, says that he believes Roy Moore’s account over the women’s. My guess is that Jerry Sr., if he could speak from beyond the grave, would probably agree. Their followers, though, are free to decide for themselves. Let them vote their own morality over party loyalty and spare us all the shame of a child abuser in the U.S. Senate.
Truth Ache
The truth has been taking its lumps recently. As recently as the late 90s there seemed to be a consensus, at least in this country, about what was a fact, what was conjecture, and what was total bullshit. Those days are gone now, and made-up stuff competes in the same league with provable truth for believability. Maybe it was always a phantom, this consensus, but if it ever existed, that tacit agreement ended with the advent of the Information Age. How ironic.

Huntley, Brinkley, and Walter Cronkite, who used to dispense versions of reality that had been researched by people whose job depended on getting it right, are long gone. They have been replaced by anyone with a a computer. Some of those people are trustworthy (ahem) but many offer nothing more than suspicions of truth that are decorated with shiny objects spun from pure imagination. And yet, a lot of our fellow citizens choose to accept these fevered hypotheticals as gospel.

How do we explain why these people — many of them well-educated — come to believe assertions for which there is no good proof? Assertions, in fact, that are easily disproven? How did these folks find their ways into this alternate “reality?” Are they fated to be gullible or do they choose to be? What, exactly, is their trip?

People who live in the provable reality are understandably concerned about these questions. For one thing, people who inhabit that alternate universe actually vote in this one. Their decisions, in and out of politics, directly effect us — mostly for the worse.

There have been attempts to answer these questions. Last spring, there was a flurry of articles about the The Authoritarian Personality. Psychologists have been looking at this phenomenon for decades, but it has resurfaced as a popular topic over the last year. The mind in question there was not mind of the authoritarian himself, but of his followers. Among their attributes is a tendency to accept whatever they are told by their leaders. They don’t even look for proof. In fact, they prefer the simplicity offered by utter acceptance of authority. Often, they prefer superstition over observable fact because mystical explanations do not require proof.

This analysis rings true, but we are still left to ask, Why? What makes people be this way, in spite of the obvious danger to their own well-being? How did the poor schmucks of the People’s Temple or Heaven’s Gate ever get to the point of absolute, unquestioning obedience?

Another analysis that’s popped up over the last year points to distinctions between conservatives and liberals, not just as as matter of politics, but across the cultural board. On the right (so the theory goes) faith and intuition are given a standing above actual evidence. These “conclusions” are not mere errors of judgment, but illusions. Perception itself is influenced by a need for consistency and order. Anything that disturbs that state is rejected — not because it’s wrong, but because it’s upsetting to the status quo. And that would mean chaos.

That’s why it’s been such a hard road for truth. It can make a dent in the chaos, but it takes time and patience and work to pull it off. Make-believe, by comparison, has it easy.

Until the rent comes due, that is. And the rent has to be paid in this universe.
God Help Us
You know, Paul Ryan might be right. Maybe prayer does work. For instance, we could pray that all the people slaughtered in our country with assault rifles and other weapons of mass murder be brought back to life. God could do that, right?

Maybe we could beseech the Lord to go back in time and do a tiny tweak on the Second Amendment. You know, just enough so that even an archconservative Supreme Court couldn’t find a way to twist the language to make it guarantee the gun madness we’re living with now? Surely God would be up for some light editing if it saved the lives of so many innocents.

We could even ask Him to destroy weapons of war everywhere. Assault rifles, nukes, poison gas, anything we use to murder each other in large numbers. Surely He’d be down for that if we really, really wanted Him to do it. Wouldn’t He?

Heck, as long as we’re praying big, maybe we could call on heaven to help Congress grow a pair.

Or is that too much?
Little Big Man
The last time I was 5'6" tall I was an eighth grader. That's not exceptionally tall for a boy of that age, but it's above average. I remember hoping at the time that the trend would continue and I would grow up to be six feet plus as a man.

Well, here I am now, all grown up. And though I sometimes fantasize about being twelve or thirteen again, I never wish that I would shrink back down to my height at that age. It's better to be tall, I've always thought, no matter what.

But now - or at least this week - I have reconsidered my position. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad to be five feet, six inches. Or even five-five, as long as I was Jose Altuve.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee