Of course, Mark Washburn’s right. The governor of South Carolina should happily accept the megapennies from Heaven President Obama is so generously offering. After all, as Washburn points out, “National debt is somebody else’s problem.” But Sanford just doesn’t get it.
Sanford says he doesn’t want to pour money on a fire.
Which is crazy talk. After all, it’s free money. Straight from Washington.
As part of the recovery plan, federal stimuluteers earmarked $700 million for S.C. education. Sanford balked.
Sanford says things like, when you’re in a hole, stop digging.
Which is crazy talk. After all, who cares how deep it gets?
Folks went to court and got an order telling him to take the money. After all, they said, we must think of the children. We must pay for education.
Sanford says things like, it will be those children who will pay the money back.
Washburn concludes his tongue-in-cheek denunciation of Governor Sanford with a little tip ‘o the hat for actually fulfilling his campaign promise to do the right thing, even if it turned out to be the unpopular thing to do. That takes guts, because, as Washburn correctly notes, that’s exactly what Sanford did, and that’s a rare thing these days.
The reason such actions require guts is because they stand against the current tide. 21st century America is not just a consumerist market; it’s a consumerist society. Instant, individual gratification is the ultimate good. Worse, it’s the only good people these days can conceive of. The idea that there’s such a thing as a living society that gives us purpose, identity, and a sense of continuity among the living and the dead is hopelessly outdated.
That mindset explains many disturbing trends, from the increasing lack of common courtesy, to the mainstreaming of “gay marriage,” and on to the acceptance of alien cultures within our borders. Social duties and obligations, including respect toward one’s fellow citizens, arise from a sense of continuity with others, and recognition of special duties to special people, such as parents and grandparents, make no sense to self-interested consumers. Similarly, if marriage is just about what best suits two coequals, then why not let homosexuals exchange rings? The idea that marriage is an institution that channels desires into the rearing of one’s genetic inheritance as well as supporting cultural continuity is regarded as sexist, patriarchal, racist, etc. Same for multiculturalism — since cultural continuity is what’s now regarded as alien, then the growth of foreign colonies of non-English speakers is a good thing, because that improves the availabilty of ethnic restaurants. Live for today, and let others worry about the cost – and the unintended consequences.
It’s no wonder social scientists these days observe a loss in “social capital” with the increase in diversity. Mutual trust requires shared values, a common history, and certainly a common language. All three are increasingly in short supply.
So the “ism” that makes Sanford’s “long view” so out of fashion is the one that blinkers our nation today. It’s “presentism,” a rigid ideology that claims all morality and wisdom and value reside in the glorious age of right here, right now, and that any past deviations from our standards only prove how benighted those dead old guys were.