Draining the Swamp

Years ago one of my co-workers and I were talking about the Catholic sex scandals and she was saying how she just would never be able to go to a Catholic church now because they’re so much more dangerous than when we were kids. But I was like, those kids we’re hearing about are our age. The whole point is that this has been going on for years, but we’re only now hearing about it.

And so I have a similar reaction to Amy Davidson about all this hand-wringing over the coarsening of our society:

The narrative of the past few years seems less about “sinking into moral dystopia” than about the draining away of a swamp that hid bad behavior. It’s lately that we’ve learned to stand up to, say, bishops protecting abusive priests, and to not to tolerate that sort of crime any more. If cynicism about such institutions means not trusting them to police themselves, it has sharpened, not dulled, our sense of right and wrong. We have, if anything, been more engaged than ever with the question of accountability—and that’s good.


It does suck that there’s so much suffering in the world, but that we hear about it and can do something about it is a good thing. The world is not worse than it was. Ordinary people just have more of an opportunity to know what’s bad about it.


One thought on “Draining the Swamp

  1. Bravo, B. Well put. This dynamic rings true about a great many things in our society. For example, it’s almost conventional wisdom that we’ve ‘become’ a litigious society, that everyone is all too willing to take a grievance to court; this convention assumes that this was once not the case. That’s total bullshit, of course. Sir Edmund Burke made a speech during the Revolutionary period describing ‘America’ as a nation led by lawyers, and of people who were all well-versed in their legal rights and were willing to pursue them. (Of course, Sir Edmund wasn’t including slaves, servants, women, and other less-than-citizens in his collective analysis.) It isn’t that we’re any more litigious now, it’s just that the right to a day in court has expanded– in theory, at least– to demographics that once were shut out completely. Some folks apparently have a problem with that.

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