In 1958, William Lederer and Eugene Burdick published a novel called "The Ugly American," which graphically detailed why U.S. diplomacy failed in Southeast Asia and why communism didn't. Our arrogance and boorish behavior doomed us there. Unfortunately, the book turned out to be prophetic. Is history repeating itself, not on a military or political level, but in the destruction of what remains of our moral underpinnings?
How can the United States project its core values when people who represent it behave like out-of-control college kids on spring break?
There was a time when bad behavior carried serious consequences; a time when those who exhibited bad behavior suffered socially for their lapses. They lost jobs; they lost marriages; they lost friends. Today, they're rewarded with book contracts and reality TV shows. What happened to doing what's right, instead of doing who's easy? People who grew up with parents who instilled a strong moral code, attended schools that reinforced it and lived in communities that affirmed it, now find that if they question bad behavior today they're considered behind the times, even prudish.
With the media portraying all sorts of behavior as acceptable; with politicians in high places getting away with low behavior and in some cases paying little or no penalty, where are the deterrents? Disappointing family used to be the default position for avoiding extramarital entanglements in cases where religious or ethical values did not apply.
While each man should be held accountable for his own behavior, the rest of us should consider what we're promoting and tolerating as a nation and the permission it gives others to follow bad examples.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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