Carol Platt Liebau: Blanket Punishment?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Blanket Punishment?

In grade school, I remember the detestable practice of "blanket punishment" -- one child did something wrong, the whole class lost recess. It seemed unfair then . . . and it seems unfair now.

Reading this week's column by Daniel Henninger for some reason recalled to me the days of blanket punishment. Henninger -- who's a wonderful writer, and someone with whom I usually agree -- argues this week that morality is no longer being taught in American culture generally (both sad and true). That's because, according to Henninger, "morality" has become almost exclusively associated with sex for political reasons -- because the red-button issues pertaining to sex tend to yield strong emotions and, hence, votes for one side or the other.

Henninger is correct in calling for a restoration of moral discourse in America. But it's troubling when he proposes:

Maybe it's time for the sex obsessives on the left and right to take their fights over abortion and gay rights into a corner somewhere and give the rest of society space to restore some ethical rootedness in an endlessly variable world.

It's not that society wouldn't be better off if we could get a bit of a rest from the most divisive sex-related social issues. It would. It's just that what Henninger's doing is equating -- on the one hand -- those who have worked hard to divorce sex from any traditional moral moorings with -- on the other -- those who have simply tried to resist that effort. It's like blanket punishment: The left started trying to impose sweeping moral revisionism when it comes to sex on the rest of the country. The right resisted. You're both fighting. So no recess for anyone.

One needn't be a "sexual obsessive" to be very troubled by sexual morality (or the lack of it) in America today, particularly among some young people. In too many cases, no larger moral principle than "do what feels good at the moment, so long as you don't get pregnant or an STD" has become the guiding focus of sexual discourse in America.

It could, in fact, be argued that the struggle over sexual issues is just one more sign of the degeneration of moral discourse generally, rather than its cause -- or even that reticence about sexual issues like that advocated by Henninger is actually what empowered the left to start the fight over sexual morality. Or, perhaps he's right, and sexual issues have indeed been part of what has made "morality" a bad word in America today.

But one thing is clear: The moral/ethical revival Henninger calls for generally is needed nowhere more, it seems, than in the sexual arena.


Blogger Bachbone said...

Part of "blanket punishment" is, I think, due to the inability of the person in charge to separate out for sanction only those in need of punishment. They don't want to damage any one, so they call out everyone. It's also a ploy, in some instances, to bring group pressure to bear, stopping those engaging in a disapproved action.

While I was in the U.S. Army, the latter was quite effective. If we wanted a weekend pass, we put pressure on the screw-ups to shape up.

When I worked in a mental health clinic during the mid-to-late 70s, the chief psychologist called a staff meeting and politely, but forcefully, reamed all of us out for goofing off. (No, I didn't think I deserved the reaming.) I was last in line leaving her office, and she stopped me to say, "None of that applied to you. That was meant for the others."

So -- why didn't she just call in those she had a problem with? I guess "not being judgemental" was starting even back then.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Mr. Twister said...

Sorry for speaking out of school, but I've got mere moments before my internet connections goes down for the night (if the past week is predictive).

Given my internet difficulties, I managed to miss the post where Carol noted that General Pace admitted that the US had no evidence that Iran was involved in the new Iraqi IED's.

I'm sure Carol would never want to lie to all y'all.

4:39 PM  
Blogger woof111 said...


Putz's make that kind of non-sequitor posting.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Broadsidejohn said...

I guess Henninger equates the "progressives" loading up the schools with homosexual/transgender programs and speakers to brainwash the children with parents opposing it being forced upon them. Typical of liberal thinking. It was that way during the "Cold War," where Communists murdering people to enforce "Progressive" policies were equated with people who opposed them, both being just two extremes.

9:05 PM  
Blogger David said...

The Right has nto preached abotu sex at all - it merely appears to ahve done so, because of all the talk on this subject done on the left.

That is the real answer to those who accuse the GOP of having moved to the right in the past few years: Wrong. We;ve stayed exactly where we were. The left has just moved even more to the left, making us appear to have gone to the right. I wish we would move move to the right. But the reaility is we havent.

12:24 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home