Morality. That is a term that went relatively unexamined for me until recently. Presumed by some to be a relative of religion, it is a word that does not seem applicable to tangible, policy-making decisions. Yet by understanding the morality of Americans, we can sketch the skeleton of our country’s current position and, more importantly, predict where we are headed.
Those who fear the nation is spiraling in an undesirable direction have reasonable evidence in their favor. Conclusions about our society’s health, both moral and otherwise, may be derived from statistics that some people find unnerving. The national divorce rate is between 40 and 50 percent. Of children ages 6 to 19, 16 percent are considered obese. The number of Americans living in poverty is 12.5 percent. Between 8 million and 10 million children are being raised in a gay or lesbian family. Approximately 1.4 million (documented) abortions occur each year. One in four Americans aged 18 to 29 considers him- or herself unaffiliated with a particular religion.
Whether for better or for worse, the landscape of American morality is changing. As the idea of self-liberation gains more and more authenticity, individuals have new options on how to live their lives, options of which past generations wouldn’t have dreamed. But are we becoming too distracted in the task of maintaining our moral standards? Younger generations of Americans have been accused of expecting instant gratification, lacking a proper work ethic, indulging in the pleasures of the flesh without shame, losing sight of the importance of acting virtuous, etc. A conservative Christian writer asked, “Do nations turn around once they have started a slide toward moral chaos?” But our definitions of chaos vary, and what some perceive to be a downward spiral into an immoral abyss might prove to be a social metamorphosis into something wonderful, if unfamiliar.
What are the moral standards by which we conduct ourselves now, if any? More importantly, where will these moral standards lead us years from now, especially as science and technology offer new opportunities? The best way to gauge this is to understand how upcoming generations perceive morality. Since our social context is vastly different from more conservative ones of decades past, so are the ways in which moral ideas apply to our lives.
The second of this two-part article will explore Rider students’ opinions about morality, getting a glimpse into the ideas that will soon shape our nation. Does our generation see the country in moral decline, or does it understand the reasons behind the moral transformations we are undergoing? How contrasting are this generation’s ideas about right and wrong, particularly in relation to controversial social issues that are currently debated? Are America’s future law-makers, social activists, educators, doctors and other contributing citizens able to carve a collective conscience out of a diverse moral woodwork? The U.S. is on the verge of a revolution, one that calls us to redefine the way we look at morality. We can choose to revert back to conservative standards of morality or to continue on the path of moral liberation. The opinions about morality held by our peers will help us to predict where America is headed: Are we a nation on-the-move, or merely a nation out-of-control?
Junior voice performance major