We live in an age of hypertrophic indecency and immodesty. This is perhaps best symbolized the Presidency of George W. Bush and his aggressive wars, rendition torture, illegal search and seizure, and absolute disregard for human suffering. A fundamental indecency and immodesty suffuses us. We have suffered a collapse of the sense of “enoughness.”
This collapse has been building over time. Personal excess was enshrined as a virtuous ideology in Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness, and its complete institutionalization in the form of capitalism was nakedly celebrated in the character of Gordon Gecko in the movie Wall Street: Greed is Good. One need not be Catholic or even religious to understand why Pople John Paul II rejected an “idolatry of the market, an idolatry which ignores the existence of goods which by their nature are not and cannot be mere commodities.” Even Adam Smith understood that the marketplace required basic human virtues of “temperance, decency, modesty, and moderation.”
During the ascendancy of the Me Generation of the Eighties and Nineties, I recall the ill feeling elicited by Ronald Reagan’s ostentatious demand for Mr. Gorbachev to “Tear down that wall!” It seemed such intemperate showmanship to lord victory over and demean Gorbachev, since they obviously already agreed to do it anyway, and Mr. Gorbachev was hardly grandstanding himself. A similar immodesty was seen in Oliver North’s audacious testimony to Congress during the Iran/Contra hearings defending his extreme, illegal, and immoral behavior. North’s testimony was hardly courageous. It was merely callously unaccountable. Is anything more indecent and lacking in restraint than having Death Squads throw nuns from helicopters? Congress more or less let everyone off the hook for their barbaric, no-holds-barred behavior in Central America, so now we have graduated to openly supporting Blackwater mercenaries randomly shooting innocent civilians in Iraq.
I’m not a prude, and I don’t think it prudish to say we as a society we have indeed drowned decency and modesty in the bathtub. We live in a world mostly inured to shocking insults of public figures by public figures, including not-so-veiled threats of judges by members of Congress. No wonder the police don’t interact with the citizenry anymore, but simply tase them into compliance when they get uppity in free-speech zones, handle their cell phones suspiciously, fail to shut their mouths, or worse yet, film them doing illegal things. Our Democratic Presidential front-runners are no different in their rhetoric than the bombastic ravings Ronald Reagan. Nancy Pelosi and the “centrist” Democrats have taken decency and modesty off the table.
With such things in mind, Chris Dodd’s act of placing a hold on the reprehensible FISA legislation, which would give blanket immunity to the giant telecoms for nakedly felonious personal intrusions upon the citizenry of the United States, stands out as a courageous act of decency and modesty in contrast to the majority of our irreputable, dishonorable, vain, indecent Congress and presidential front-runners who could not summon that courage.
Thank you, Chris Dodd, for showing quiet, prudent leadership on long-standing principles, even when it goes against the grain of our currently corrupt culture. Chris Dodd has a sense of “enoughness.” He has earned my support.