My Own Wife, Guilty of Moral Equivalence

by Gene Callahan by Gene Callahan

Well, although this is a rather public forum in which to air my problems, and what I plan to discuss here is rather personal, I really think that you readers might be able to sympathize with the unfair treatment I’ve been subjected to recently. Therefore, at the risk of coming off like a guest on The Jerry Springer Show, I’m going to plunge ahead and share some of my worst difficulties with you all.

They arise from the horrible case of "moral equivalence" that my wife somehow has contracted, most likely from her frequent contact with "leftists" while working in Manhattan. The most common form of the disease manifests itself in the infected person voicing one or more complaints about immoral or illegal actions undertaken by the US government. Moral equivalence can then immediately be diagnosed by any neoconservative or neoliberal, who can point out that, even as the infected person is protesting some action by the American state, that he is failing to note all of the other instances in history when some other government did something similar, but even worse.

Well, my wife has this disease in a bad way, even if the form she has contracted is not the most typical. Let me give you a few examples. For instance, the other night I weaved my way home after having about ten beers. As I stumbled through the door, she berated me for having gotten trashed. Now, wait just a second: Somewhere, I read about Stephen King confessing that he was drinking an entire case of beer – that’s 24 of them, for you non-brewmeisters – pretty much every night for a couple of years. But was my wife there at his front door, waiting to berate him when he stumbled through its portal? Has she ever even raised her voice in protest against his excesses? No, she has not!

Other times, she’ll bring up the extramarital affairs. OK, I admit, I’ve had a couple of dozen of them. However, contrast the anger she directs at me for my paltry number of escapades with her complete silence on the subject of Wilt Chamberlain, who boasted – boasted, mind you! – of having had sex with over 20,000 women.

And what about the other day, when she called me a monster for the severe beatings I sometimes give our kids in the evening, just to relieve the stress of a hard day of composing columns? It’s all well and good that’s she’s in a huff about my behavior, but think about John Wayne Gacy for just a minute. He didn’t merely beat children, he raped and killed them, and they weren’t even his own kids! So, did my wife confront him in his kitchen and call him a monster? You can guess the answer.

If I get a bit fed up with all of the griping, and smack her around a bit, you wouldn’t believe the scene she makes. Fine, fine, so I’m an ogre because of a few slaps that barely leave a mark! Hasn’t she ever heard of Henry the Eighth? Several of his wives would have considered a little smackdown to be getting off easy.

This moral equivalence is a really vicious illness. I deeply sympathize with the Bush administration. They haven’t tortured, raped, or killed nearly as many Iraqis as Saddam Hussein did. They haven’t invaded and occupied half as many countries as Adolf Hitler. When it comes to killing non-combatants with bombs, they are pikers compared to Harry Truman. But they can’t catch a break! Crimminy, can’t you "Constitutional rights" whiners leave John Ashcroft alone and go bug Kim Jong Il instead?

You’ll probably try to excuse your sick behavior by pointing out that the Bush administration runs the country in which you live, right now, rather than operating in some other country or time. That’s exactly the sort of nonsense my wife tries to get me to swallow when I bring up Wilt Chamberlain or Henry the Eighth.

Denial is no way to deal with a serious disease like moral equivalence. If you suffer from moral equivalence, you need to get treatment, and fast: I recommend a long retreat at Claremont College, with extended daily sessions spent reading National Review, The Wall Street Journal, and the NY Post. Still, even with the best care, you’ll probably always have to work a day at a time at maintaining complacency as your government kills civilians, tortures inmates, and imprisons people without trial.

June 23, 2004

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