“We blush for the impudence and rudeness of another, though he himself appears to have no sense of the impropriety of his own behaviour; because we cannot help feeling with what confusion we ourselves should be covered, had we behaved in so absurd a manner.”
~ Adam Smith, “Of the Sense of Propriety” (1759)
“These are the times that try men’s souls” wrote Thomas Paine in December of 1776.
It certainly seems our souls are being tried in these times. Not a day passes without the opportunity to be disappointed in almost everything. About forty percent of America is disappointed that their authoritarian socialist messiah was deposed by a nasty little document called the Constitution, another forty percent is disappointed their new authoritarian populist messiah is being hamstrung by both the actions the old messiah took before leaving office and those his loyalists are taking today and the remaining twenty percent who were forced into a Judgment of Solomon, having to split the baby by either voting for the new authoritarian populist messiah or sit it out, are disappointed with all of it.
I count myself in the twenty percent disappointed with pretty much everything.
I’m disappointed in the fact that the current President was sold as a “fighter” but gave in on Michael Flynn, seems ready to give in on Jeff Sessions, now seems “flexible” on climate change, amnesty for illegal aliens, the Iran deal and the full repeal of Obamacare (the House “replacement” bill seems to have just changed the names of several aspects of Obamacare) is an issue.
I’m disappointed in the fact that America now has a politically progressive former president allied with radical members of his party, the American media and members of the deep state, all of whom are actively organizing and personally engaging in opposition to future non-politically progressive leaders of government through civil agitation, palace intrigue and outright obstruction rather than within the political process
To a large extent, the root of the disappointment is America’s loss of any sense of propriety, any sense of behavior consistent with respect for the unwritten traditions that preserve the unique common virtue of the American people. Propriety is defined as the “state or quality of conforming to conventionally accepted standards of behavior or morals” or the “details or rules of behavior conventionally considered to be correct.” While Americans are notorious for pushing the limits, there has always been a common understanding of an appropriate level of decorum expected from people on the inside and outside of our social-political system.
Now there are no rules.
2017 is the culmination of over a century of attacks on propriety by the political progressive left in a ruthless quest for power. Progressivism pursues instant gratification for its adherents as it pursues long term ideological superiority. The progressive left politician pursues a process of granting government indulgences to their supporters knowing that eventually entitlements become expectations and expectations are extremely difficult or impossible to reform without paying a very high political price.
In an attempt to stem the progressive tide, America turned away from conservatism/classical liberalism and elected a populist, someone who is equally unconcerned about tradition and possesses as little sense of propriety as his opposition. The commonality in both sides is that they always pursue what they can do without asking themselves if it is something they should do.
One must wonder if this is how the descent into a condition of permanent mudslinging and political chaos begins. One wonders if our traditional American virtues and sensibilities are still capable of being offended, if, in the words of Adam Smith, “we cannot help feeling with what confusion we ourselves should be covered, had we behaved in so absurd a manner.”