From the New York Times, Weary of Relativity by Frank Bruni
Set the bar low enough and all blame is deflected, all shame expunged. Choose the right points of reference and behold the alchemy: naughty deeds into humdrum conformity. Excess into restraint. Sinners into saints.
When it comes to money, almost everybody looks up — not down or sideways — to determine how he or she is doing and what he or she might be owed. There’s always someone higher on the ladder and getting a whole lot more, always someone who establishes a definition of greed that you fall flatteringly short of.
One titan’s bonanza becomes the next titan’s yardstick, and the pay of the nation’s top executives spirals ever further out of control.
Then there’s the moral jujitsu that American voters have become especially adept at in these polarized times. Many of them unreservedly exalt their party’s emissary — and inoculate him or her from disparagement — simply because he or she represents the alternative to someone from the other side. Being the lesser of evils is confused with being virtuous, though it’s a far, far cry from that.
President Obama stumbles or falls and is pardoned by all-or-nothing partisans on the grounds that he’s not George W. Bush. Those same partisans wave off any naysaying about his foreign policy by bringing up the invasion of Iraq. And the bungled rollout of Obamacare? A mere wisp of inconvenience in comparison with the botched response to Hurricane Katrina. Everything’s relative.
Except it’s not.
There are standards to which government, religion and higher education should be held. There are examples that politicians and principled businesspeople should endeavor to set, regardless of whether their peers are making that effort. There’s right and wrong, not just better or worse.