Don't Enlist In Culture War

I know that for many self-labeled conservatives, the "culture war" is one of their favorite topics. My advice is, don’t enlist.

The major problems facing the United States have nothing to do with culture. They have to do with government and economics. The loss of American jobs, the so-called jobless recovery, the deficit, the unfair tax code, the trade deficit, the record levels of debt, a failed public-education system and a screwed-up foreign policy have nothing to do at all with art or culture or morality.

Ideally, of course, laws should reflect the consensus on morality. They do to some extent, mainly the criminal code. Unfortunately, government, in its zeal to expand, has criminalized many things that are inherently noncriminal. There are so many laws on the books today — and more coming — that not even a lawyer knows what they all are.

If Martha Stewart lied, she shouldn’t have — but her main mistake was even agreeing to talk to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office. Why should a citizen undergo interrogation just because she sold some stock on the advice of her stockbroker? If your broker called and said the president of XYZ Corp. is dumping his stock and maybe you should sell yours, what would you do? You’d sell. That’s what you pay a broker for — advice. Remember, the government didn’t charge the woman with trading on insider information.

At any rate, that’s one example of criminalizing conduct that is not inherently criminal. Criminal conduct always involves inflicting injury or death on a person or taking or destroying another person’s property. Martha Stewart did neither. Her prosecution was an abuse of government power.

But as for morality as it concerns personal conduct, you can’t rely on the government to impose it on individuals by the clumsy tools of the law and the prosecutor’s office. Morality is a matter of individual conscience, and that is an area the government should stay out of except in those instances where force or fraud is used against the innocent. Even in those cases, the law is a poor deterrent.

Attraction to the same sex is not amenable to the law. The attraction will exist whether the law forbids it, allows it or ignores it. The same is true of addiction to chemicals. Fidelity in marriage, faith in a religion, personal honesty, integrity, respect for others, frugality and courage are all beyond the reach of government — and should be.

As I have said before, if homosexuals wish to deliver themselves into the hands of divorce lawyers, that should not be a public issue. I don’t think the government should be a third party to heterosexual marriage, but making itself so does not sanctify a marriage. Just look at the high divorce rate. That and economic pressures are the main enemies of families.

When the Founding Fathers wisely chose to keep state and church separate, they did not intend to encourage atheism. On the other hand, they did intend to keep religious people from imposing their individual religious beliefs on other people via legislation.

In our free country, despite the obvious depravity of some people, there is nothing to keep a religious person from following his or her faith to the letter, regardless of how others choose to behave.

When politicians rant about matters of personal morality, they are just trying to distract your attention from their own failure to solve the quite secular problems that they themselves have created.

Don’t let them get away with it. The politicians can’t make you a saint, but they can destroy your material well-being.

Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.