“The things we choose to care about”

A couple of weeks ago I had a few days off work with a really nasty cold and as I was recuperating I was watching some DVDs.  One was an American TV drama series about President John F. Kennedy starring Martin Sheen as JFK.  It’s a pretty sympathetic portrayal of the Kennedys and makes a particular enemy of J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the F.B.I.

In the series, Hoover is portrayed as being a conniving, nosy and moralistic man but without much personal integrity.  He seems extremely concerned about JFK’s personal habits – particularly his womanising and affairs.  At the same time Hoover doesn’t seem to care too much about morality in terms of violence and discrimination perpetrated against African-Americans in the South.  Likewise, JFK was very concerned with the deep seated racism and yet didn’t seem to see his recurring unfaithfulness to his wife as a moral problem.

In this country we’ve recently seen a prominent member of a liberal/left-wing Government survive public revelations about an affair while conducting a morally questionable and incompetent military campaign overseas.  President Clinton worked hard at reforming the United States healthcare system in an attempt to make access to quality health services easier for the many who could not afford health insurance premiums … and yet his various sexual affairs made him an easy target for his political opponents.

So why do so many politicians seem to have such massive moral blindspots?

I was watching The West Wing yesterday as the President (again played by Martin Sheen) is discussing the possible assassination of a terror suspect who also happens to be Defence Minister of a friendly government.  The advisers explain to the President that there are a whole set of rules to how the assassination must take place.  The President says “The things we choose to care about!”

It seems we can all be very selective in our moral outrage … I’ve been challenged just today by the revelations about manufacturing conditions for workers involved in making clothes for 3 of the UK’s best known retailers.  I’ve bought a number of clothes from these places, the reason being that they are cheap and I can afford them on my pittance wage.  But my pittance wage is still going to be way more than these workers will be paid and buying cheap clothing is usually so I can buy more clothes AND have money left over for DVDs and other luxuries.

There are militant anti-abortion groups in the US who seek to kill and injure doctors who perform abortions because they believe these doctors have no respect for the sanctity of life.  Personally I do not agree with the widespread availability of abortions as I believe that life does begin at conception, and I do believe in speaking out for unborn children who have no voice of their own.  But to kill in the name of protecting the sanctity of life seems ridiculous and self-defeating.  There should be a debate about the nature of what it means to be human, of where life begins and looking at the balance of the child’s rights versus the women’s rights.  There should be a debate, not a war! There are extremist animal rights groups who see fit to terrorise and threaten those involved in animal testing.  I think it’s right to feel outrage and anger when humanity abuses it’s position of power and responsibility in this world merely for convenience, enjoyment and passing beauty.  But once again, the tactics of many of these groups always end up with them surrendering the moral high ground.

Call me naive, idealistic or just wandering round in dreamland but I’m longing for a new generation of political leaders with the personal integrity and morality not to compromise themselves and yet with the compassion, the vision, the lack of self-interest and the heart-felt desire to serve society as a whole and to protect all, especially the disadvantaged and needy.  I don’t see that in any of our current leaders and looking back at human history does not give me tremendous amount of hope for the future …

The things we choose to care about?  Why not care about everything …


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