I sometimes wonder what happened to the ideas, or concepts, or beliefs, or whatever you want to label them, of “right” and “wrong.” I guess they have become considered just old-fashioned and/or irrelevant these days. Certainly they no longer have any meaning for our elected officials, our “leaders.”
I am not concerned here with the basic philosophical question of whether there are absolute rights and wrongs, merely with issues that would seem to be pretty obviously right and wrong, relatively speaking. Perhaps the best example at the moment has to do with gun control. It would seem to me clear that with some 90% of the public in favor of background checks, along with just basic thoughts on the issue that background checks are the right thing to do. I know that just because a majority is in favor of something it does not mean that is necessarily right. But in this case, with such a huge majority in favor, and just plain common sense, along with statistics that illustrate the problem clearly, it would appear that passing background checks would be the right thing to do. But what is of most interest to me is that right and wrong have nothing to do with what is happening on this important matter. Those individuals who are voting against background checks are not voting because they think it is a matter of right or wrong. They are voting solely on the basis of whether or not their vote will matter with respect to their next election. Right and wrong has absolutely nothing to do with it. Similarly, it is not obvious that those who are voting for such checks are doing so because they think it is right to do so or also voting for political reasons. I would assume that many of them think it is the right thing to do but it may also be the expedient thing to do for their future careers.
And so it is, it seems, for most of the votes being cast either for or against whatever the issue may be. I doubt that most of our officials give much thought to whether or not they are doing the right thing. They are obviously more concerned with voting the way their contributors want them to vote. If that happens to coincide with what is right so much the better, but what is right has little or nothing to do with how they actually vote.
I believe, naively I guess, there was a time when our elected officials actually had the best interests of the citizens in mind, and they voted for what they believed was the right thing with that aim in mind. That is, there was the idea, if you were elected to public office, you were to serve the public, or at least your constituency and vote for what was in their best interest. This does seem at the moment to be a particularly old-fashioned, even stupid idea, for if you wish to stay in office nowadays you vote the way you are subtly or no so subtly instructed to vote, public interest has little or nothing to do with it. This is clearly what is happening with respect to background checks, and there is little doubt the same thing is true of votes on health care, unions, minimum wages, food stamps, and most other issues of importance to ordinary people. Votes are blatantly bought in what has become basically a system of bribery where those with money can arrange for the votes they want. Right and wrong have nothing to do with it. Notions of right and wrong have gone the way of the Passenger Pigeon, “ 23 skidoo,” corsets, modesty, virginity, and etiquette, to say nothing of the English language. It’s the American way!
In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, intelligence is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office.