For a long time I’ve thought that people would one day wake up and notice how far the nation has drifted from morality and would be horrified and long for former days of decency. It hasn’t happened, even as “the national conversation” has raced steadily bottomward from promiscuity to homosexuality to bisexuality to transgenderism to pedophilia. I just now realized why.
There is a scene in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty in which the witch, after 16 years of obsessively scouring hill and dale for Princess Aurora to kill her, calls her henchmen to account for their inability to locate her. They shrug and reply they did their very best, searching every cradle in the land. In a mixture of restrained horror and disgust Maleficent turns to her pet raven and says, “Did you hear that, my pet? All these years they’ve been looking for a baby.”
My oversight was similar to that of the witch’s servants, in that I had forgotten one important fact: The people I was expecting to be nostalgic for more moral times are people who never lived in them.
I am now 61, and the proportion of citizens who remember a world where homosexuality was a weird rumor, shacking up was taboo, and abortion was scandalous is getting smaller and smaller. Normalcy for my juniors is not the same as normalcy for a sexagenarian. Moreover, my juniors are not bell-bottomed college rabble-rousers anymore—they are now the tenured professors, judges, and journalists.
Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking at Montana State University’s Museum of the Rockies in 2010, expressed deep regret for the Supreme Court’s modern notion of a “living Constitution,” which has emboldened his colleagues to legislate their own constantly shifting subjective morality:
“Nothing that I learned in my courses at Harvard Law School, none of the experience I acquired practicing law, qualifies me to decide whether there ought to be … a fundamental right to abortion or assisted suicide.”
John Adams foresaw the absolute necessity of morality for a viable society:
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Last weekend, thinking to shock a 30-year-old woman to her senses as she defended homosexuality to me, I asked how she would feel if her child decided she was really a man in a woman’s body. I was the one who got shocked: The woman responded that if that were what her daughter decided, it would be fine with her.
All these years I have been looking for a generation that is vanishing.