Where Have All Our Morals Gone?

by Saul Levine July 27, 2017


footprint-augIt used to be that this country was a beacon of idealism to people all over the world. Its foundational credos, the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, were revered at home and emulated abroad. American children were taught their significance, and education and knowledge were the cornerstones to American achievement.

The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island symbolized lofty ideals and welcomed millions of immigrants to these shores. The newcomers worked hard, contributed to this country, and they and their children shared and shaped the American Dream.

But that was then, and This is Now… when “alt-values” prevail. These words and actions convey anger, rudeness, hate, greed, lying, selfishness, intolerance and callousness. These questionable codes of conduct have become commonplace on television, in social media and in everyday life, rapidly solidifying as standards for our impressionable children and young people.

There is no doubt that we live in a dangerous world, both at home and abroad, and we must certainly be vigilant and protect ourselves. But in the all-encompassing service of strengthening our forces and intelligence agencies, we could lose sight of some of our basic human values and diminish the essences of what made this country so exceptional in the first place.

Citizens in a democracy are encouraged to criticize and support the politicians and parties that best align with their own values. But today it seems that duty is dulled at the edges.

The discordant words and behavior of political leaders can be toxic to the core values we once cherished. If the new norm consists of demeaning and disrespectful utterances, or bullying and belligerent behaviors, we invite the decline and degradation of our nation’s better values.

Demagoguery engenders anger, hatred and fear and these “emotional viruses” can easily spread among a vulnerable population through a process known as “social contagion.” These negative emotions insinuate themselves into the social atmosphere, wreaking havoc with people’s thoughts, emotions and behavior.

When we demonstrate respect, tolerance and caring, we encourage the same benevolent behaviors in return. By the same token, when we convey incivility and brutishness, we provoke antagonistic responses in others.

If we continue our descent into callousness, selfishness and hostility, we negatively impact and harm the quality of our lives. Words of rage and hate can easily be forerunners of violence.

We have crucial decisions to make about our core values, manifested by our attitudes and behaviors. Our future as a civil and  democratic republic and progressive society is at stake.   

Just as we are using our formidable intellect and creativity to reduce our carbon footprint, we can similarly mobilize our resources to improve our emotional footprint, or how we treat and affect each other.

When we express the values most true to our best human instincts, we create a positive emotional footprint, and we improve the quality of life for all of us. We do have a choice.

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