Here's one usage of the term gentleman: The gentleman helped the fallen lady to her feet. Here's another, one we might hear from a newscaster or a police spokesman: Tonight we report on the arrest of two gentlemen who raped, sodomized and murdered an 80-year-old woman.
During earlier times, to be called a gentleman meant one was honest, brave, courteous and loyal. Today "gentleman" is used interchangeably in reference to decent people and the scum of the earth.
Much of today's language usage demonstrates a desire to be nonjudgmental. People used to shack up; now they cohabit or are living partners. Few young women of yesteryear would have felt comfortable to publicly declare they slept around. Unmarried women used to give birth to a bastard; later, this was upgraded to an illegitimate birth or a nonmarital birth. In many instances, unwed mothers proudly hold baby showers celebrating their illegitimate offspring, and the man, if known, who sired the baby is referred to as "my baby's daddy" or sometimes as "my baby daddy."
Homosexual marriages, which are not a basic human survival trait, were unheard of; today, in some jurisdictions, homosexual marriages have legal sanction. To be judgmental about modern codes of conduct is to risk being labeled a prude, racist, sexist or a homophobe. People ignore the fact that to accept another's right to engage in certain peaceable, voluntary behavior doesn't require moral acceptance or sanction.
Another measure of social deviancy is reflected by the excuses and apologies that are made for failures and how we make mascots out of social misfits, such as criminals and bums. The intellectual elite tell us that it's poverty or racism that produces criminals, as opposed to a moral defect. We call bums homeless people. That suggests a moral equivalency between people who have lost their homes in a fire or natural disaster and people who choose to be social parasites; therefore, neither group is to be blamed for its respective condition. People who are very productive members of our society, such as the rich, are often held up to ridicule and scorn.
Think back to former President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky and the nation's response that "it was just about sex." Therefore, it was no big thing for the president and his men to become involved in witness tampering, perjury, obstruction of justice and a White House-organized attack on Kenneth Starr, an officer of the court. Most Americans thought removal from office was too harsh for Clinton's lawlessness.
That kind of lawlessness helped establish a precedent for lawless acts by President Barack Obama. His most recent was an executive order that suspended legal liability for young people who are brought to our country illegally by their parents. He also repealed the legal requirement that welfare recipients must work, by simply redefining "work" to include other things, such as going to classes on weight control. Then there are waivers from Obamacare for favored allies — waivers that offend the principle of equality before the law.
Whether the president's actions were good or bad ideas or not is irrelevant. What's relevant is whether we want to establish a precedent whereby a president, who has no constitutional authority to repeal parts of congressional legislation, can grant special favors and rule by presidential decree like Third World tyrants.
I don't hold President Obama completely responsible for his unconstitutional actions. It's the American people who are to blame, for it is we who have lost our morality and our love, knowledge and respect for our Constitution, laying the foundation for Washington tyranny. It is all part and parcel of "defining deviancy down," which is the term former U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan coined in 1993 to describe how we've switched from moral absolutes to situational morality and from strict constitutional interpretation to the Constitution's being a "living document." Constitutional principles that do not allow one American to live at the expense of another American are to be held in contempt. Today's Americans have betrayed the values that made us a great nation, and that does not bode well for future generations.
Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.