It comes as the news reports that Ukraine forces have the Russians on the run, as the world pays deserved tribute to a just-deceased woman whose grace and stability helped to hold the west together for 70 years, while a wannabe autocrat rushed with only his golf outfit and cleated golf shoes through an airport to meet a handful of equally clubless men on a course in Northern Virginia.
An uncommon word for these days appeared in the headline of the lead Washington Post editorial of Sept. 12, 2022. A seemingly uncommon word, a throwback to an earlier era in America, perhaps: “moral.” Beneath it another relatively rare word for these times, “respect.” The whole headline read “Popular and Moral, The Respect for Marriage Act Must Pass, and Republicans Should Support It.” It was the headline to an editorial in support of marriage equality that made a case for why Congress, with the help of enough Republicans, should codify same sex marriage into law this fall, much as it should also codify a woman’s right to choose after the now-extremist Trumpian U.S. Supreme Court majority struck down protections for women that have been on the books for 70 years.
The concept of “morality” has been on the hit list for eradication since the rise of what goes under the blanket term, “postmodernism,” “Morality” enjoyed a partial comeback during the Obama years, but took a back seat to the ascendancy of the abject nihilism as the GOP’s “grasstops” anti-Obama movements took off in the form of the Tea Party and then the Trump movement.
“Morality” as a mode for social existence has been replaced with the horribly rude and crude comments that now so commonly dominate so-called discourse on social media platforms, very often allowed under the protection of anonymity. The decline of “morality” and “respect” over the last half century has had a lot to do with the degenerated social environment that has given rise to Trumpism in our day.
But suffice it to say that the last six years of Trump, and especially since the Trump-master Putin’s invasion of Ukraine this February, have represented new lows in language, civility and respect for human life.
There is “right” and “wrong” in this world, and merciless tyrants are always wrong. Like the South in the U.S. Civil War and the Axis powers in the two world wars of the last century, tyrannical powers have been responsible for the vast majority of abjectly murderous wanton killings of soldiers and civilians alike.
Pro-Confederate, pro-fascist and pro-Soviet historical dissembling has muddied the historic record to the point of arguing for a (totally non-existent) moral equivalency between genocidal forces and those who’ve stood up to them.
For example, in World War II, while U.S. and British forces suffered an estimated 400,000 casualties each to fight totalitarian, genocidal regimes, in Fascist Germany and German-occupied Poland it was more like eight million and for Stalin’s Soviet Union, a staggering 20 million.
(Yale’s Timothy Snyder, in his book “Bloodlands,” cites that before the Second World War even began “Josef Stalin had killed millions of his own citizens, and kept killing them during and after the war. Before Hitler was finally defeated, he had murdered six million Jews and nearly as many other Europeans.” Then, at war’s end, he added, “both the German and the Soviet killing sites fell behind the Iron Curtain, leaving the history of mass killing in darkness.”)
The inhuman tyrants of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union had so little regard for human life. Being on a common philosophical level, they spewed raw nihilistic so-called “nationalism,” It’s that same disposition which has been at play in the Russian invasion of Ukraine in this past year and among the U.S.’s pro-Trump “Christian nationalism” movement in the U.S., as well.
So, wherever the values of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are not elevated and held as universals, as in the totalitarian roots of “postmodernism,” there is no value placed on human lives. Instead, postmodernism contends that only the pursuits of animalistic pleasure and power are valid. No values associated with concepts of love or empathy are allowed by it, and we’ve lived with that deeply corrupted paradigm dominating our national psyche for more than half a century.
The push for moral and progressive religious ecumenicism, for example, huge in the West after World War 2, died in the 1960s when an impersonal relativism swept over scholarly discourse and suddenly there was no consideration given to discerning the moral strengths of any religious expression. I was a seminarian in those days, and witnessed this sad development first hand.