Pine Nuts: Private orals versus public morals

McAvoy Layne
Pine Nuts

Today’s private and public morals, though married, are living apart, so far apart they are no longer sleeping in the same time zones.

The relatively nascent divorce of private and public morals is a result of a slow tectonic shift from the morality of George Washington’s day, to the immorality of Andrew Johnson’s day, to the amorality of today. Private and public morals were once the same.

What happened? Well, in walked political morality.

My constant comrade Mark Twain explains, “Without a blush he will vote for an unclean boss if that boss is his party’s Moses, without compunction he will vote against the best man in the whole land if he is on the other ticket. Every year, in a number of cities and states, he helps to put corrupt men in office, every year he helps to extend the corruption wider and wider; year after year he goes on gradually rotting the country’s political life, whereas if he would but throw away his Christian public morals and carry his Christian private morals to the polls he could promptly purify the public service.”

Serious as it was at the time, when Mark Twain was writing for the Territorial Enterprise he was vilified and challenged to a duel by a rival reporter who called Twain a “puppy.” That was James Laird’s private and public opinion of Mark Twain, as published in the Daily Union. Yes, private and public opinions were living together in the 1860s.

Then they started to drift apart. In Twain’s Story of the Bad Little Boy, Twain asserts, “And he grew up and married, and raised a large family, and got wealthy by all manner of cheating and rascality, and now he is the infernalist wickedest scoundrel in his native village, and is universally respected, and belongs to the legislature.”

Fast forwarding to 2018, decency in the Washington District of Columbia has gone AWOL. Goodwill and charity have been supplanted by ambition and avarice. Name calling is in a freefall race to the bottom, from being called a “puppy” in Twain’s day, to, well, for this fine family journal, let’s cite a Russian slur, “polzni durak,” or, “useful idiot.”

Principles? We miss Groucho Marx: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them, well, I have others.”

Our collective conscience as a nation has also been sliding downhill, and everything has been greased by internet trolls for the occasion. But wait! There is good news, and the good news is that we might have hit rock bottom. We can do no worse than what we are doing right now.

A new dispensation is dawning over America, and a glorious reawakening awaits her in 2019. Our private and public morals will join together in the new year, renew their vows, and a candid concern for a greater good will prevail. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it…

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