In a recent letter to the editor, published April 2, a writer expressed his disdain for “The morality gang.” He implied that those he dubs as “moralists” focus their concerns on “minor” issues, such as gay marriage and abortion rights, while failing to address the more significant moral issues associated with Wall Street and big business. He implies that these “larger” issues are of more importance, and affect far more people, including the well-being of our economic system.
I would suggest that, while these issues are, perhaps, more visible in their impact, they may not necessarily be more profound in their influence on people’s lives and on our society.
Morality always begins at the personal, individual level. It is seen in the everyday behavior and decisions of people interacting with one another in every aspect of living. Public morality evolves from the actions of a collection of individuals functioning from their own moral codes ... or lack thereof.
If we want better moral accountability in our systems of government and finance, we would do well to practice and promote the development of sound moral judgments in our relationships and everyday decisions. Greed at the corporate level did not begin there.
The writer also states that “women should have rights over their own bodies.” I don’t believe that anyone who ascribes to the Right to Life philosophy has ever denied this. Women have the right to do with their bodies what they wish ... they can get tattoos or body piercings, treat or not treat their own illnesses, have unprotected sex or refrain from it, and any number of other decisions regarding their bodies ... so long as they do not infringe on the rights of another. What many say they do not have a right to do, is to end the life of another person, for any reason.
Everyone needs to make morally responsible decisions, and not evade this responsibility in the name of ignorance, immaturity or selfishness. Our societal systems might function much more to the common good if we all focused on modeling and demanding morally responsible behavior in our everyday interactions with one another.
The persistent cultivation of responsible moral behavior at the individual level is our only real hope for a better “public morality.” “Minor” moral issues are the training ground for the “major” moral issues that impact our collective society.