November 1, 2012

Campaign 2012: the Funeral March of Public Discourse

(Photo Credit: hahajk.com)

[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.


  • Donnie

    I see this exact same thing coming from proponents of hipster Christianity. I can’t stomach (or take seriously) the John Stewards and Steven Colberts of the world, so I doubly can’t take seriously Christians who take their mocking and derisive attitude and apply it to orthodox and conservative Christians. I’m 35, so supposedly the Rachel Held Evans and Christian Piatts of the world are supposed to be the voice of my generation. But count me as someone in that generation who is embarrassed by them.

    • J P Logan

      That’s good to hear, Donnie. For what it’s worth, Tony Campolo is old enough to be your grand-dad, but he says plenty of stupid and heretical things, so there’s enough nonsense to infect every age bracket.

  • Mark

    One of the many ironies is that the people who sponsor such hateful absurdity are among those who scream loudest for “civility” and “tolerance”.

    With “civility” and “tolerance” like this who needs incivility and hate??

  • http://notesfromthepastorsoffice.wordpress.com Chris Tiedeman

    Is this the only post? I only ask because I didn’t see anything about the blatant lies coming from the Romney camp having to do with nearly every single issue he has ever taken – or taken twice. I am in total agreement with you about the eroding of the public discourse, but not when you only blame one side.

    • Mark

      No, it’s not only on one side, but saying that Romney is guilty of “blatant lies” regarding “nearly every single issue he has ever taken” kind of help proves the point that most of the incivility comes from the Modern Left.

      You have provided inadvertent assistance to the point of the article.

      http://hotair.com/greenroom/archives/2011/01/12/the-incivility-of-the-right-left/

      http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-bloggers/2855291/posts

    • http://www.facebook.com/clinton.grant.39 Clinton Grant

      Extreme Liberals “Statists” deal in lies so much, they are unable to believe anyone else could possibly have any good ideas. They just can’t believe anyone is as smart as themselves. They totally ignore the proven fact that “Statism” has made things worse for all but the elite every single time its been tried.

    • Bart Gingerich

      Chris,

      If the Romney/Ryan ticket or their fans were running prominent ads with foul language, lewdness, and bathroom humor; then they’d be included in this article as well. If you couldn’t tell, I’m particularly addressing an impoverishment of public rhetoric.

      • Mark

        Bart, you wouldn’t have a problem finding incivilities (or perceived incivilities) of conservatives: they’d be plastered on the front pages of most major newspapers. The fact that they aren’t reported, even by people who would gladly stretch the truth to make conservatives look bad, speaks volumes about the lack of evidence.

  • http://contextintn.wordpress.com/ dover1952

    I would not worry about it too much guys. The nasty campaign on both sides will be over on Tuesday. Best I can tell from the numerous sources at my disposal, it looks as if Mr. Obama will be in the White House for another 4 years and Obamacare will be an inescapable national reality.

    Frankly, I am glad to see the coming full advent of Obamacare because the poor people in this country will finally have access to decent health care services. I grew up in a poor household where my parents did not have health insurance, but they sure could have used some because both were chronically ill most of their lives. To a great degree, they just did without and suffered.

    Here in Tennessee insurance and health care have always been really big industries. Nashville is the headquarters of Hospital Corporation of America. These industries are already lighting hot fires under Republican conservatives in state government to get on board with Obamacare. They do not want to miss out on all of the windfall insurance premiums from new, young, healthy customers, and the hospitals (medical community) do not want to miss out on all of the new customers that have never had access to consistent health care until now. Former Republican Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist is already making the political rounds to make it happen. My bet is that money will win the day over state conservative Republicans because, and I do not say this lightly, you and I both know that the real god of the Republican Party always has been and still is MAMMON. It always amazes me how you IRD guys tend to overlook that simple reality and live in a fantasy world where you pretend that the GOP really cares about your pet issues. Their whole equation is structured to the tune of “how can I sucker them into giving me their vote and me giving them nothing they want in return.” Is anyone here interested in betting against it?

    • Mark

      Your comments are divorced from reality.

      Obamacare purports to add 17 million more to the Medicaid rolls to provide healthcare to the needy. But Medicaid patients already have trouble finding a health care provider because of very poor reimbursement to the providers. This is not really health care coverage, it’s health care coverage in-name-only. Are you really “covered” if you have to wait 3 months or longer to see a doctor? More than anything this is “political coverage.”

      Obamacare is the biggest program of its kind ever passed without a single affirmative vote of the opposition party. It was unethically constructed behind closed doors and passed in the dark of night. NO ONE who voted in favor of it had a comprehensive grasp of what was in it. It was as much a political document as a legitimate health care proposal.

      If you want to talk about Mammon, then you are really talking the Modern Liberal language. Their actions belie their rhetoric in that they are obsessed with wealth redistribution, which is really obsession with money. They are under the materialistic illusion that redistributing money will bring widespread happiness. Such illusions are based in envy and greed.

  • kelly

    Not all of these ads are televised. Not all of these ads come from the Obama camp nor are they all endorsed by Obama in any way. The day that all Christians live morally, they can say something about the morals of others…and say, it would still be just an opinion based on one faith out of many (or lack thereof) in a country that honors all equally. There are immoral folks on both sides of the isle. Romney lied in his latest political ad against Obama in regards to GM moving American jobs overseas. That is the opposite of the truth, and it seems (at least to me) like a bigger issue than a girl talking about losing her virginity or someone dropping the f bomb, in my humble opinion. Do we just conveniently sweep that under the table then? Not if we actually CARE about morals. Lying crosses the isle. We all know what a lie looks like. Lies are immoral. When Obama lies (and he has), it’s a bad thing also. This Romney ad takes it to a whole new level, though. If I thought that GM was sending American jobs overseas I wouldn’t want to buy a GM car. Would you? People believe these ads. They believe what Romney says without bothering to seek the truth. Where does that leave GM? Let’s not even start with Romney’s outsourcing…sorry…offshoring. Is it ok when he does it? Is it ok that he turns around and falsely blames others of what he’s done himself numerous times? Is that moral? Do we place judgement on a group of people as being immoral when there is immorality in our own back yard? That goes for politics as well as religion. It makes no sense. It’s actually sort of (extremely) hypocritical.

  • Adrian C

    Bart, regarding your references to sitcom morality and the general smuttiness of the culture: Maybe you’re not old enough to remember the great British comic Benny Hill, whose show ran on American TV in the 1980s and 1990s. Hill was the “naughty little boy,” and there was something impish (and, strangely, innocent) about the sexual jokes on that show, the kind of “ribaldrty” the British were so good at, dating back to Chaucer and Shakespeare. With the current brand of comedy, there’s something kind of cruel about it, as if the writers are trying to push the envelope further and rub people’s faces in the mud. So we can’t be too surprised at the nastiness of political ads, since they’re produced by the same people, the ones who are sure they can come up with something to give the old lady in Peoria a heart attack.