The real campaign issue: The World we leave Our Children

Posted: Nov 03, 2004 12:00 AM

The key question this election was who do you trust more on the war on terror? The voters spoke clearly on that topic last night when they re-elected President George W Bush. Now that the election is over, it is time for the president to answer a deep and abiding question. It?s not a question that is simply Republican or Democrat. Rather, it?s a question that has to do with moral excellence: what can we do restore the tenets of faith and morality in our culture?

The public is ripe for this kind of appeal. They spoke on Election Day when all eleven states voting on a proposed gay marriage amendment, rejected the measure. And they spoke even more clearly when they pulled the lever for the President .Bush understands that morality is what animates our lives with meaning.

Of course, in this day and age, our politicians are not supposed admit to being guided by God. The public is, on the whole, happy with things. So any politician truly seeking revival?moral, political or social?will seem out of touch with these decadent times. By extension, their message will be marginalized as extremist. In a society comfortable with its own material prosperity, talk of true moral revision tends to recede.

Few comforting conclusions may be drawn about a country that is loosing its framework of moral reference. History tells us that such decadence flowered in Rome, leading to the fall. As ancient Rome?s colonial policy siphoned resources from around the known world, wealthy citizens sought new and lavish ways to proclaim their material wealth and dominance. The old virtues (duty to the state over individual wants) fell by the wayside of a culture increasingly obsessed with a belief that their society was enduring, complete. It was this belief in the inevitability of their way of life, which led to the fall. In modern America, the same pattern repeats. Same-sex marriages, eroding family values, and criminal violence are prevalent and cause concern. But little more. We take for granted that American life will go on. This kind of decadence will be our undoing.

President Bush will continue to show unwavering leadership at home and in the war on terror. But let us not use our military and economic success as the sole measure of right and wrong. For indifference to moral striving will be the slow undoing of all we have gained. We must never forget, that without a sense of moral striving, we are, as individuals, condemned to formless lives. It is morality that provides an absolute point of reference with which to discern between right and wrong. Morality arbitrates what we should take in, and what we must reject. Without this foundation, one merely lives from whim to whim, moving neither toward nor away from anything. Without a dedication to moral excellence, we are condemned to meaninglessness.

Early on, these ideas were deeply inscribed in America's self-concept. As French writer and politician, Alexis de Tocqueville noted over a century ago: " I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in the fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good-and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." A century later and America is glutted with prosperity, but empty in soul.

Now that the election is over, I suggest that the president take steps to secure the future of this country. That means brokering peace, and facilitating peaceful expansion. But it also means reminding the country that indifference to moral striving will be the slow undoing of all we have gained.

I pray that President Bush seizes on this moment to rekindle in our children a sense of moral striving, so that they may realize something greater than a popular culture that glorifies violence, sexual promiscuousness, same-sex unions and disintegrating family structures. It is time for the President to seize on this historic opportunity, and lead the nation to look inward, and revaluate the world we leave our children.