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.
Arkansas into Elysium.
I mention Arkansas because of a classic bit of deflection performed last month by one of its senators, Tom Cotton. He was rationalizing a so-called religious freedom bill that would have permitted the state’s merchants to deny services to people based on their sexual orientation. And he said that it was important to “have a sense of perspective.”
“In Iran,” he noted, “they hang you for the crime of being gay.”
I see. If you’re not hauling homosexuals to the gallows or stoning them, you’re ahead of the game, and maybe even in the running for a humanitarian medal.
Like I said, you can set the bar anywhere you want.
And you can justify almost anything by pointing fingers at people who are acting likewise or less nobly.
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.
And there’s a word for recognizing and rising to that: leadership. We could use more of it.