Dr. Kara Coe
MA, PsyD, MS
Licensed Clinical Psychologist, CSOTP, CGS, CSAC, GS
Fellowship/Post-Doc Training at Harvard Medical School-Dept. of Psychology
Owner, The Bishopsgate Department Store
Without other recourse, the American media has recently focused its lazy eye on human morality in response to many of President Trump’s decisions. A cursory Google search of “has America lost its moral compass” provides an arsenal of scathing interpretations. In an article from The Daily Caller, Christine Dolan posits “America sold its soul to fame, power, money, and celebrity long ago,” citing the Kardashian Empire as an example of our moral compass. Similarly, in The Washington Times, Cheryl Chumley writes “President Trump’s decision making, and behavior exhibit…amoral(ity)” with the supposition this also represents a decline in American morality as a whole.
So has America lost its moral compass? We still don’t know. None of these articles addresses a moral compass, they describe distress regarding a decline in our societal mores. Morality is an individual’s ability to differentiate between right and wrong and choose what he or she believes to be good or bad behavior. It may be largely determined by a person’s religion, upbringing, and culture, but is ultimately open to individual human interpretation. The media has mistaken the perceived change in American social norms as morality, instead of mores.
The argument of the liberal media that a derogatory statement or tweet from President Trump could result in the deterioration of American morality is farcical, if not morbidly bleak. And if this absurd supposition were to come to fruition, the proposed socialization of medical and entitlement programs would be about as successful as the “democratization” of Communism during Gorbachev’s Cold War Perestroika.
I would argue that America has not lost its moral compass, rather the compass has changed directions. Behaviors that were once considered immoral, including Chumley’s data of out-of-wedlock birthrate, may now be individually morally and/or ego -syntonic, but I don’t believe this represents a loss of morality. For example, I do not believe a person who participates in sexual relations before marriage is any more likely to commit rape, nor is a person who has stopped attending church on Sundays more likely to commit murder. Americans retain a sense of right versus wrong, but some individuals choose more forgiving expectations. We are not on the wrong track, we are on a different track.