[Warning: this blog is about indecent language. I link to said indecencies for sake of evidence, but if you don’t want to hear bad language, don’t click on the hyperlinks.]
Have you heard? There’s a presidential election going on. As I try my best to avoid campaign blitzing on the internet (thankfully, I don’t have cable), I have really been shocked by the advertisements springing from the Obama camp. Three in particular are sadly worth noting.
The first is the famous Samuel L. Jackson video, featuring young children imploring their progressive-yet-indolent parents to “wake the f*** up!” With all due respect to Pulp Fiction fans, I find that shoving kids into our current moral hellscape without adult supervision to be a depressing sign of the times. Let us graduate from childhood to young adulthood, in which political operatives saw fit to compare casting one’s first vote for the Democratic ticket with losing one’s virginity. Charming. Unfortunately, American citizenship will never be seen the same way again. But let’s not stop there! Moveon.org and Michael Moore decided to get Grandma involved with the current election. One sweet elderly lady, enraptured with the New Deal, cooed about her first vote for FDR. She then reveals that if I don’t vote for Mr. Obama, she’s going to “burn this mother f***** down.”
These campaign ads are but signposts for our daily media consumption. Our assimilation of sit-com morality is nearly complete. Not only do we expect Doofus Dad and Sassy Stepmom; we also rely on Premarital-Sex Sister and Dirty Old Man Grandpa. How can one even hope to teach virtue in an environment when our entertainments lack low-to-nonexistent standards of morality? [Hint: less “entertainment”] To illustrate this virtue crisis, we can look at a simple example. My parents and comrades could get me to straighten up with the mere commands of “be a man” or “be a gentleman.” Now there’s a generation that lacks a picture and idea of what manhood actually looks like in the context of family, church, and community. The spiritual and ethical disorientation is staggering. This is no less than a moral crisis.
I think there’s an important place for ribaldry. For example, Shakespeare and Aristophanes explored the smallness and beggarliness of all mankind from the (occassionally foul) mouths of fools, not the nice “decent” people who were caught up in a moralistic hubris. These ads, however, are far removed from this grand tradition of the jester and satirist. They are instead reminiscent of a schoolboy who just learned naughty words on an internet discussion forum. We have turned in sacrificial virtues and reflective circumspection for peevish adolescence and (thankfully) empty threats. We switched our bread loaf for a stone, our egg for a scorpion, our fish for an asp.
To quote my friend Paul: “And this show has reached a new low.” And it’s about time it should get pulled off the air. I would say, “Election Day, come quickly.” But the screen-garbage isn’t going away with a mere election; it’s going to take daily habits and small-but-significant choices.