Orcinus, April 23, 2009
Run your bank into the ground? Hey, it was our fault for not keeping a better eye on you. Here’s some cash. Since you’re rich guys, we trust you to do the right thing going forward, so we’re not going to bother you with a bunch of rules and oversight—but you promise to be good now, ‘K?
Also, you Bush guys and CIA operatives who thought torture was a fine idea? Yeah, we know we’ve signed a bunch of treaties that unequivocally require us to bring you up on charges; but we’re looking forward now, not back, so, y’no, whatever. It was pretty ballsy of a few of you to actually admit to committing war crimes in public. We know from “audacity” (it’s our middle name, in fact), and that was audacity with the gain turned up to 11. I mean, really: We’re impressed. Shocked and awed, even. But we’re not gonna hassle you about ancient history, because it’s so much more important that we keep our eyes firmly on the future. Just promise you won’t do it ever ever again, all right?
It’s interesting to watch the Democrats trying to work some life back into their long-neglected oversight muscle. Thirty years of conservative misrule have muddled Americans’ understanding of words like responsibility, accountability, discipline,and punishment to the point where nobody knows that they mean any more—and don’t seem to want to know, either. The social conservatives go on and on about the evils of postmodern morality and situational ethics; and on this score, I can’t quite summon myself to disagree. It’s been as though nobody on Planet Washington ever had a parent who was able to explain right from wrong, or demonstrate the role cause-and-effect plays in the ethical universe. It’s like a moral-gravity-free zone.
Stuff happens. Whatever.
I am neither an ethicist nor a philosopher. But I am a mother, and know a thing or two about disciplining children. (I’ve got a freshly grounded teenager pouting upstairs right now who would be delighted to tell you all about it. At length. With loud choruses of what a Mean Mommy I am. What he doesn’t know is: I take that tune as a clear sign I’ve done my job right.) And, as an observer of the differences between conservatives and liberals, I know that our attitudes toward discipline—whether it’s children or adults who are being called to account—is one of our core areas of disagreement.
Understanding that difference may explain something about how we got here.