Moral codes have been a part of different societies and civilizations since the beginning of time. The Greeks worshipped the gods of Mount Olympus, while England has been ruled for centuries by different religious monarchs, and the Africans have rich tribal traditions involving unique customs. With moral codes in place, the majority of these civilizations' problems dealt primarily with outside groups seeking to invade these countries for power. However, it is different in America. America does not suffer from antagonizing outward forces bringing war to our lands. Instead, the United States in general suffers internally from a lack of strong moral conviction of any sort. As a whole, moral behaviors and actions are steadily losing their value as advertising becomes more sensual, immorality becomes the norm, and values such as honesty and integrity no longer play an important role in our daily lives. Although many people turn their head to the rapidly declining moral society, the problem needs to be recognized and faced head on with immediate action.
One of the first ways to face this problem is with reform in the government philosophy. A common belief today is that the government should stay completely distant from endorsing any religion at all. A few years ago, there was a news story about the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) accusing the government of meddling with church and state (KSL News, August 4, 2002). Their accusations stemmed from the fact that fellow police men and family members had put white crosses with a Highway Patrol logo on them along the highway or at other sites where former officers were killed in the line of duty. To the ACLU, this showed a state endorsement of the Christian religion. Luckily, the judge threw out the motion, as he realized an important concept that many Americans fail to recognize. By the government allowing no religious actions in public places, it is forcing a religion onto the people; a religion known as atheism. You cannot separate the government from moral issues. It has been said, that "The President has a moral role, whether he likes it or not" (Big Think, 2008, February 26). This is because every law the president passes makes a stand on whether something is right, or wrong. In other words, each law passed sets a national moral. The government could use this to its advantage as we try to move forward as a good society. Senator Joe Lieberman said, "To make a difference, we must take our religious beliefs and values -- our sense of justice, of right and wrong -- into America's cultural and communal life" (Joe Lieberman, 2005). If the government were to draw on these particular cultures, religions, and traditions, it would give the people a sense of footing and a stronghold, from which we could grow and progress as a society (Michael Sandel, Professor of Government, January 16, 2008).
Another step we could take in shaping a moral society would be to get actors, singers, and other celebrities to champion the cause of moral change. It has been proven that when celebrities endorse a cause, the cause will gain widespread recognition (Ingrid Newkirk, President of RETA, February 21, 2008). This should come as no surprise, as when one has a hero, they try to emulate that hero's actions and beliefs. Many young people look up to these celebrities to set their standard that they will live by. A study revealed that 98% of the homes in America have at least one TV, and 2/3 of those homes have at least two TVs (John Bytheway, 2003). With media so present all around the youth, they see a standard and they try to emulate it. A further study revealed that American teenagers see an estimated 14,000 sexual references per year on TV, and only about 150 of those references deal with sexual responsibility. This statistic along with others shows how America is in a moral decline, and gives us knowledge as to what influences the upcoming generation. If the youth and the future leaders of the society are to be reached, one must start from those that influence their everyday actions, and get them to change. If this is done, the youth will follow.
Those that influence the youth, greater than celebrities and other such people are parents and educators. It would be wise for parents and educators to educate children in moral behavior through both word and action. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach stated, "First and foremost, my mother influenced me…She was the first one to influence me" (Shmuley Boteach, January 8, 2008). He later says that after his mother, his father and his educators influenced him most. When we are first born, we follow our parents examples and actions to learn how to do everything. That is how we learn to talk, walk, and act. If parents teach the youth early, the values and morals learned will stay with the kids forever, and it will determine the quality of their future. Educators as well give a lot of influence for what the youth turn out to be. As required by law, youth around the country go to schools five days a week, and are put into the hands of these educators for usually about six hours per day. During these six hours, the students listen to and learn from the learned educators. It is as simple as doing laundry. If you place a black cloth in bleach, it is not going to come back out black. Educators can be influencing students for good or for bad, and the students will be direct results of what they have been taught. James A. Lee said, "There is a need as never before for the schools to train their students to stand on their own feet and act in terms of their own standards" (James A. Lee, 2005). If we have a society where both parents and educators are influences of good morals and values, the morals and values of our society will rise accordingly.
The last and most important champion of moral reform, are the individuals themselves. A quote reads, "There is a desire on the part of most people…not to just cultivate our own garden, and to live in a comfortable family life, but also to participate in shaping the courses that govern our collective thought: and to have a say in the collective destiny" (Michael Sandel, January 16, 2008). People want to be good and to be the cause of something that will better society as a whole. To have enough influence to create a moral change, we need the individuals themselves to have the drive. This drive is something that cannot be forced or impressed upon any individual. Moral reform of the country is a big movement. If the individual is not deeply committed to the cause, it will not last, nor will it have to drive to push the much needed moral change. It takes conviction brought upon by the individual's free will. Just as the American Revolution was a minority movement (The American Pageant, 2002), a minority movement is all it takes to make a nation aware of a problem. It can be likened to the ripple in the pond. All it needs is one starting ripple, and it will spread much farther than it started. Henry David Thoreau said, "Be not simply good -- be good for something." If the citizens of the United States can notice this problem and be the cause of change, the effects could be phenomenal, and society could thrive on the basis of a good, moral standard.
If we are not careful, our society will rip itself from the inside out. We are under attack every day as our morals and ways of life are being challenged by the lack of good moral leadership. If the leaders and influences of the upcoming generation can teach and live a good example, we can provide a good life for future generations.
References· America's Youth are in a Moral Decline (2005). James A. Lee, In American Values. Thompson Gale Publishing.· Big Think, February 26, 2008, Re: Is it the President's job to solve moral issues?Retrieved March 4, 2008, from http://www.bigthink.com/policy-politics/2008-elections/7932 · Boteach, Shmuley. Rabbi (January 8, 2008). Retrieved March 4, 2008, from http://www.bigthink.com/identity/2936· Bytheway, John. (2003). Turn Off the TV and Get a Life. Deseret Book.· David Kennedy, Lizabeth Cohen, Thomas Bailey. (2002). The American Pageant. New York, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
· KSL News, 2006. Judge Throws Out Motion to Remove UHP Road Memorials. Retrieved March 13, 2008, from http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=148&sid=402031· Newkirk, Ingrid. President of RETA, (February 21, 2008). Retrieved March 4, 2008, from http://www.bigthink.com/media-the-press/7663· Religion is Essential to America (2005). Joe Lieberman, In American Values. Thompson Gale Publishing.· Sandel, Michael. Professor of Government, Harvard University (January 16, 2008). Re:What Do You Believe? Retrieved March 4, 2008, from http://www.bigthink.com/faith-beliefs/3951· Sandel, Michael. Professor of Government, Harvard University (January 16, 2008). Humans Have a Yearning to Think Beyond Themselves. Retrieved March 4, 2008, from www.bigthink.com/history/3950