Vicarious Moralism

on . Posted in Articles by Brent Johnson


There is a sickness that has been spreading throughout our country for decades, infecting the American people with its voracious disease-filled agent. Today, too many Americans display symptoms of the illness I call vicarious moralism.

Vicarious moralism is the term I give to the desire by some to remain uninvolved while simultaneously rendering judgment on all people and all types of behavior. Modern American society is infested with this condition, and the American people continue to spread it throughout the land.

Consider how all over the world, except in the united States of America, ordinary people stand up against what they perceive as injustice. For example, in Ukraine, some 250,000 men, women and children took time off work or school not only to protest but to forcibly remove the Prime Minister from his government building and literally throw him into the street and out of office!

Or the recent events in Venezuela concerning the closure of a popular, political opposition television station, in which thousands of people staged protests against their government. These are only two of the many examples throughout the world of people becoming involved in the social and political evolution of their country. It happens almost everywhere … I said almost.

For I cannot remember the last time that the general public in this country raised a real stink about anything. Oh, they attend politically correct protests and mount resistance campaigns for the proper causes (global warming, amnesty for illegals, etc.), but I’m talking about resisting the status quo, meaning standing up to the seated government and refusing to retreat from the confrontation! That is what our Founding Fathers did, and what the American people refuse to do, regardless of the degree of rampant injustice and tyranny that exists in the United States today.

Instead of getting directly involved, the American people have contented themselves with disconnected involvement, i.e. vicarious moralism. They would rather watch events take place from a safe distance and then chime in with their judgments and opinions. The American people have become little more than armchair quarterbacks.

Consider how many people you know who speak ill of those who question the so-called war in Iraq. As a matter of fact, go ahead and try it yourself. Go somewhere with a lot of people, then loudly declare that you believe we should immediately bring our troops home because Congress never declared war as is required by the Constitution and therefore our troops are illegal invading forces. Then watch what happens.

I guarantee that at least some of those present will rail against you for your un-American, unpatriotic stance, explaining that terrorism requires us to change our attitudes, or that we can no longer go about living our lives as freely as we have, or that we must all give up some liberty in order to establish and maintain our security. These people will judge you for your position, even though few if any of them have ever studied the Constitution or examined the invalidity of the official arguments that resulted in our invasion of Iraq. These very vocal people who are so quick to spout the official party line have not taken time to learn the truth. They only echo the positions they heard on Fox News or CNN last night, or read in the New York Times this morning.

A perfect example of this tendency may be found in the O.J. Simpson trial several years ago. You may remember that O.J. Simpson was accused of murdering his wife, the mother of his children. Today, just about anybody you ask will tell you that O.J. was guilty, even though he was acquitted by a jury. They will tell you that even though he was acquitted of the charge of murder, he was found guilty in a civil action that was subsequently brought against him. These people will tell you that O.J. definitely killed Nicole Brown Simpson and that you are some kind of reprobate for even suggesting otherwise.

They will then go home, all the while thinking of themselves as intelligent, informed, and upright citizens. They will consider you to be misinformed and possibly un-American, because you dared to suggest something different from their (and the official) position on this issue.

Never mind that during the Simpson trial, Judge Lance Ito suspended testimony in the middle of examining a witness so that he could tape an interview with Larry King for CNN! Forget about the evidence tampering, or the testimony of witnesses like Mark Furman, who was forced to admit that he lied and planted evidence. Don’t bring up the fact that by the Rule of Law, O.J. should have been acquitted, or that his acquittal means that under our laws, he is innocent of the crime he was accused of committing. Do not bring up to a vicarious moralist the fact that since O.J. was acquitted of the criminal charges brought against him he is an innocent man, and that during the civil trial even the mention of acts for which he was already acquitted was legally improper and should have been disallowed.

Neither does it matter that the threshold for determining a verdict is much lower in a civil proceeding than a criminal one. In a civil action, if the jury believes there is a 51% likelihood that a certain party committed an act, then they can find against that party. In a criminal trial, the jury must be unanimous in rendering its verdict.

None of these are important to the vicarious moralist. He must defend his ignorant assumptions about Simpson, Bush, and Iraq, because his life is based on making precisely these kinds of judgments about other people. If he was ever to question the veracity of the positions he takes, then the vicarious moralist would find himself at odds with his own identity. He would have to change his ways, and these days, too few Americans are willing to look at themselves with such honesty.

The vicarious moralist lives life through the actions of others. As long as there are people to criticize, behaviors to judge, and actions to attack, this type of person will continue to thrive on the experiences and misery of others.

If America is ever to restore to her people constitutional Rule of Law and Due Process, then the American people must stop living vicariously. They must stop focusing on what others possess, where others work, what kind of lifestyle others live, and take a good and honest look at their own lives and values. They must stop making American Idol and Dancing with the Stars top-rated television shows and instead spend their time on events and issues of real importance to this country. They must reprioritize their values to place principle above money, position, and image. They must resist oppression and tyranny wherever it shows its ugliness. They must refuse to pay illegally or improperly assessed taxes until and unless they are provided with real answers to legitimate questions about their legality. They must stop waiving their rights in exchange for government privileges and benefits.

If the American way of life is to be preserved, then the American people must get involved with their society, and recognize that life is what we make of it, and that each and every American can have a wonderful life, if he or she only works hard to achieve it.

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