Last Sunday, I picked up a copy of Boston Magazine while sitting in the green room at the Fox News studios in Watertown, Mass. Leafing through the publication, I came across an article titled "Confessions of an Ivy League Callgirl," written by Jeannette Angell, a university lecturer with a master's degree from Yale. The fact that she was a Yalie caught my eye -- as a Harvard Law student, I've already adopted our communal animosities -- and so I read the piece.
Apparently, Angell began trading sex for cash after receiving her doctorate in social anthropology. But what was shocking was not Angell's experiences but her insistence that she not be condemned for her actions. "Please don't be so quick to call us hookers, to judge us," she wrote. "We could be your mother, your sister, your girlfriend, your daughter. Even your college professor. No, I take that back. It's not a matter of saying that we could be. We are."
The logic goes something like this: If you have a relative who engages in a sinful act, the act cannot be condemned. After all, blood is thicker than morality, right? Loyalty to the tribe comes before loyalty to moral values.
It's a successful tactic often employed by proponents of liberal social policy. Just this week, Michael Moore wrote in USA Today that most Republicans are actually social liberals. As proof, he cited a supposed interview with a "proud Republican." "Would you discriminate against someone because he or she is gay?" Moore asked the man. "Um, no," the man answered. Moore comments: "The pause -- I get that a lot when I ask this question -- is usually because the average goodhearted person instantly thinks about a gay family member or friend."
Unfortunately, Moore's explanation of moral hesitancy rings true. Social liberals expect to emerge victorious from the culture wars because of conflicting allegiances among social conservatives: allegiances to friends and family, and allegiances to traditional morality.
In order to assuage the moral qualms of conflicted social conservatives, social liberals have created a whole new system of morality. Social liberals redefine right and wrong: It is right to value your friends and family, and wrong to condemn them for moral failings. According to the social left, in any pitched battle between traditional morality and friendship, those who side with traditional morality are morally wrong.
And so tolerance has become the new morality. Those who condemn homosexuality are morally wrong. Those who condemn prostitution are morally wrong. Those who condemn abortion are morally wrong. Tolerance is moral -- and traditional morality is simply intolerant. Moore rips the traditional morality crowd as a bunch of conspiratorial bigots: "Your people are up before dawn figuring out which minority group shouldn't be allowed to marry today."
Socially liberal Republican Sen. Arlen Specter labels traditional morality immoral: "When you talk about gay rights, it's a civil rights issue, and you ought not to count votes on it. In the long sweep of history, those who favor gay rights are on the right side of the issue. It's a matter of moral principle."
The new religion of tolerance provides a slippery slope into moral oblivion. All activity must be tolerated, since sympathy for friends and family trumps traditional morality. With tolerance for sin comes acceptance of sin, and with acceptance, promotion. With Roe vs. Wade, Americans grudgingly tolerated abortion.
With tolerance came acceptance: Those who received abortions were no longer seen as immoral. Instead, they were the moral equals of ordinary mothers. Finally, abortion was promoted as a valuable alternative to pregnancy completion -- and those who condemned abortion were slandered as sinners.
When Republicans passed the partial-birth abortion ban last year, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California complained that such policy was immoral: "What I think is immoral is to take your views ... or my views ... and force them on the people of this country," she stated. "It is disrespectful, it isn't right, and it isn't what America is about."
The same progression holds true for gay marriage: tolerance, acceptance and promotion. The first step is always tolerance, and tolerance must be attained by appealing to sympathy. The easiest way to gain sympathy for social liberalism is to point out close friends or relatives participating in sin, and then dare us to condemn their actions.
So can we condemn Jeannette Angell as a whore? Can we condemn homosexuality or abortion as sinful? Of course we can. Morality cannot survive in a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) context. If morality extends only to those far removed from our personal lives, it has no meaning. To preserve traditional values, justice must take precedence over sympathy.