A couple of cultural commentaries

Komen’s Cave Illustrates What’s Wrong in America

What happened last week with the Susan G. Komen for the [breast cancer] Cure organization and Planned Parenthood illustrates what’s wrong in America. In a nutshell, here’s what happened:

1) The leadership of the Komen organization determined that giving grants to Planned Parenthood (and other organizations currently under investigation) was no longer consistent with Komen’s values, so it discontinued such grants.
2) A whole bunch of people denounced Komen’s decision.
3) Komen caved and reversed its decision.

Regardless of your position on abortion or Planned Parenthood, far too many Americans and American institutions these days are being far too weak when it comes to A) having intrinsic value systems in place, and B) standing up for their values in the face of extrinsic pressures. In the Komen/Planned Parenthood case, if Komen’s leadership believes that passing its donors’ dollars along to Planned Parenthood goes against its values, then it shouldn’t matter how many people believe otherwise.

Upholding values is more important than being popular or generating revenues, but even from just a pragmatic perspective, I think Komen’s cave was a bad move – personally, I don’t much like the Komen organization right now, and I probably won’t be generating any revenues for them (of course I’m against breast cancer – we all are – but the Komen organization is just one of multiple breast cancer-fighting organizations).

So how have intrinsic values faded away in America – at both individual and institutional levels – over the past 50 or so years? To put it simply, the sources of those values have dried up. People used to get values in three primary places:

1) Home (from two parents who took the interest and time to impart them to their kids),
2) School (yes, teachers used to talk about moral issues in public schools), and
3) Church (no, not everyone went to church, but even those who didn’t still had home and school).

Now, lots of kids are growing up in single-parent households wherein the parent is either too busy or too caught up in his/her own social life to impart good values to his/her kids, public school teachers don’t talk much about moral issues for fear of being sued by disgruntled parents, and far fewer Americans attend church on a regular basis.

It’s no surprise, then, that too many individual Americans and too many of the institutions that they run, like the Komen organization, don’t seem to stand for much anymore. It’s sad, though, because we became the world’s leading nation caring about values, and if our global competitors start caring more about values than we do, it’ll be tough for us to maintain both our moral and economic leadership positions.

Extra Point!

Before I go, one more quick point:  I just saw a Superbowl Sunday commercial that showed a bunch of kids with words like “dream,” “believe,” “imagine,” “aspire,” “achieve,” “excel,” “succeed,” etc. appearing on the screen.  So what was it that these kids were supposed to be dreaming about, believing they could do, imagining themselves achieving, excelling and succeeding at, etc.?  I thought it might be saving lives by performing surgery or curing a disease or fighting fires/crime or defending the country, or maybe running the country or at least a big company, or maybe going to Mars on a space mission.  No, it was sports.  Yes, things like pushing a little disk around an ice-skating rink with a big stick, dunking an orange ball through a hanging net, etc.  I know, I’m putting down sports on Superbowl Sunday, and that may be frowned upon, but seriously, wouldn’t it be nice if we collectively encouraged kids once in a while to actually aspire to do things in life that have some intrinsic meaning, things that aren’t inherently meaningless, save for their entertainment value?  I think so.

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