We were watching someone, politician or would-be politician, say something horrible and ugly on the news, and bemoaning the polarization of current political discourse in the country, and he said something to the effect that it didn't use to be like this, and he mused about pinpointing the change to a particular event or person.
As I said, I don't know much about it, but it occurred to me that from what little I did pay attention to, it seems to me that when I was young and when I was younger, there could be open disagreement between people of good will on the subject of fiscal philosophy.
There was discordance on the best way to keep our nation safe, and therefore war.
But other than lingering institutional and codified racism, (and that is no small sin against morality,) there was consensus on matters of simple decency.
One did not fornicate in the governor's mansion, one did not mock the elderly while cheating them of their life savings, one did not proudly murder the baby in the womb, one did not brag about acquiring a trophy to replace the older model spouse one was dumping, one did not smirk about or bashfully admit to paying prostitutes, one did not present filth as art in serious venues.
Oh, people did these things, they got away with doing them, and probably profited from them.
But they had the decency, frankly, to be hypocrites, and at least try to keep them on the down-low.
There were, across religious denominations and political parties and ethnic groups, some small areas of consensus.
There are still people who hold to these standards, but one has very little faith that even ones friends and colleagues share them.
And I think that is the factionalism at the root of the incivility of modern politics and intellectual discourse.
I like to quote her, but Jane Eyre's moral strength would make her a laughing stock were there to be a faithful adaptation of Bronte's work for popular consumption, wouldn't it?
What used to be called "common" decency is high comedy now.
I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad—as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth—so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane—quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.And in answer to a "Catholic" magazine which had inquired, as if chastity were some Sisyphean task, What should a gay Catholic do? I had imagined her answering,
Do as I do: trust in God and yourself. Believe in heaven... I advise you to live sinless, and I wish you to die tranquil.... We were born to strive and endure -- you as well as I.O the times, O the mores... I am feeling old.