You may never have heard of Joe Wilson before.
But this little known congressman has become the center of a media firestorm.
You see, last night during Barack Obama’s nationally televised address to the House and Senate, Wilson interrupted the president’s assurance that illegal aliens would not be eligible for participation in his health care plan by offering a one word rebuttal.
At that moment Joe Wilson became the news.
He has since apologized for his outburst. But the ensuing uproar has been educational to say the least.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel declared that this lack of respect for the office of the presidency is without historical precedent.
According to the Associated Press, Emmanuel declared, “No president has ever been treated like that. Ever.”
As Ed Morrisey points reminds us, ill mannered disrespect seems to know no party lines:
Unfortunately, people on the Left want to keep hyperventilating about this as though the world was born on the day Barack Obama won the presidential election. As Omri Ceren and Michelle remind people, the Democrats were hardly models of decorum in the last administration. Here’s a clip from the State of the Union speech in 2005, when George Bush warned Congress that Social Security was going broke and needed reform immediately. Did Democrats politely listen to the warning? Not exactly. Listen to the boos and catcalls:
Did any of the hyperventilators today demand apologies from their side at the time? Did any Democrat ever offer an apology for their rude behavior? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
I’d take the hyperventilating with a wee more seriousness if it didn’t come from the same crowd who cheered the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at Bush in a 2008 press conference.
The easy conclusion to draw from all of this is that everyone has gone rude.
A pox on both their houses!
But the unexpected theatrics we saw during the president’s speech reveal something far deeper.
The charge – “Liar!”– is one we hear more and more often in our society.
The lines between truth and what comedian Steven Colbert has called “truthiness” have become increasingly blurred.
It has become so difficult to discern who is telling the truth in the current debate that “Fact Check” articles have become a staple in our newspapers.
We get a blow by blow description of just how “truthy” the powers-that-be have been in their latest declarations, usually with decidedly mixed results.
And the main casualty is trust.
We live in a society that has for over a generation been raised on the concept of moral relativism.
This is the notion that there really is no such thing as absolute truth.
Something is true, if it is true for you. But you can’t put your own ideas of truth on other people.
The value of a belief is only to be found in the sincerity of those who hold to it.
“You do your thing. I’ll do mine. If we meet in the middle, it’s beautiful.”
But what happens when we don’t meet in the middle?
What happens when someone decides that getting what I want is what is “beautiful”, no matter how many people I have to step on to get there?
If man really is the measure of all things and we all get to decide what is right and wrong, why not be rude while the president speaks?
If that works for you, go for it man!
Why not throw your shoe, or even something more dangerous at a politician you happen to disagree with?
As long as you are sincere, that’s all that matters, right?
Here is the problem that is becoming increasingly obvious in our culture – there is no agreed upon set of basic truths we all adhere to any longer.
Each and every week we see a new example of people in high places getting caught in compromising situations.
Our spiritual leaders are caught in salacious sins.
The politicians who write the tax code haven’t paid their own for years.
Those who are sworn to uphold the law will tweak it just a bit for a price.
Because they have all bought – we have all bought- into the world view that says “there is nothing right or wrong but thinking makes it so”.
It has been said that democracy without morality is anarchy.
And this should not surprise us.
No matter how much we might want to deny it, there is a deep seated sense of ultimate right and wrong in all of us.
It has been called the great “Ought” that we can’t seem to ignore.
God calls it a law that He has written on our hearts.
The apostle Paul described it this way:
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. (Romans 2:14-16)
This is why we are instinctively outraged at disrespectful behavior.
This is why we get angry when politicians, professors or pastors fail to tell us the truth.
We know there is a right and wrong.
And we also know that to ignore this law in our hearts will result in serious consequences.
And as we are seeing in these days, one of the serious consequences is the death of trust.
Can a trust-less society long endure?
We may get the chance to find out.
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