Thursday, June 12, 2014

Always Let My Conscience Be Your Guide

Last week there cam a report that said Americans are learning more from Stephen Colbert, a master of parody, than the actual news. For the last three days, our local news cast has lured us with two relatively noteworthy headlines -- a political upset, multi-car pile ups -- and then revealed, "But today's top story is rain!" Really? When rain is your top story, my hat is off to The Colbert Report.

Jon Stewart is another source of political humor and fact(?)-based satire. I like Stewart; I don't necessarily agree with his views, but they challenge me to think, and he is funny -- I don't care who y'ar.

On Tuesday, the Huffington Post Comedy site featured the headline, "Jon Stewart: Fox News Doesn't Know What a Conscience Is." I took the bait. Stewart shows a clip of what appears to be the set of Fox & Friends, on which co-host Steve Doocy is quoting Bowe Bergdahl's father as having told the officer, shortly before he went missing, "Obey your conscience." The host then goes on to question some "authority" -- on desertion in the military, the Taliban, Jiminy Cricket, I'm not quite sure -- as to Papa Bergdahl's advice. "Doesn't it sound to some like he's telling his son to just go ahead, go do what you want." Stewart pokes, "Yeah, to someone who doesn't know what a conscience is."

Stop! I'm taking the middle ground on this. First, yeah, a conscience is not something that gives you license to "go ahead, go do what you want." Yes, you're right Jon, a conscience is what is supposed to speak us, personally prohibiting us from just doing whatever. This is what I will call the letter of the law.

As for the spirit of the law, what I assume Doocy was trying to say, every conscience is different, personal. For example, Jon, would your conscience bother you if you had casual sex with someone you'd dated for seven months? Not only do I think your conscience wouldn't bother you, but I'm willing to bet you probably wouldn't even call it casual sex -- you'd been together two-hundred seventy+ whole days, after all. My conscience would say, "Wrong! Don't do it." See the difference -- personal.

How about this example, would your conscience bother you if you told your daughter that homosexuality is wrong and you did not condone her current relationship? "I couldn't live with myself!" you might say. Well, Jon, not only would my conscience not bother me, my conscience would compel me.

I certainly do hope we've not vilified an innocent man, as we are wont to do. Political pundits always say things like, "Of course it's all based on the results of the investigation, BUT...," or "He's a traitor, a baby-killer," and then mumble, "We'll I don't want to judge until all the facts are present." But as far as his conscience goes, his conscience is his conscience and is, therefore limited only to what he believes is moral. Conscience, as I believe was Doocy's point, is an unreliable measure of right and wrong. Sometimes it's easy to justify what we do, move the boundaries of conscience just a bit at a time. And it's never the same between any two people. Bergdahl would no more want my conscience to be his guide as I'd want his to be mine.
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