Magazine article Insight on the News

Don't Let the `Hypocrite' Label Impede Airing of Moral Views

Magazine article Insight on the News

Don't Let the `Hypocrite' Label Impede Airing of Moral Views

Article excerpt

Hypocrisy n. -- a pretending to be what one is not, or to feel what one does not feel; esp., a pretense of virtue, piety, etc.

Hypocrisy is the last sin in America. Murder is still bad but, to read recent newspapers, hypocrisy trumps just about everything else. Not only that, but political opponents can label a person a "hypocrite" by pointing out examples where the person's actions don't match his rhetoric.

The potent political arrow of hypocrisy permits even Larry Flynt to find a moral high ground. Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey offered his support to Flynt -- a notorious pornographer who has encouraged violence against women in his Hustler magazine -- on the basis that fighting hypocrisy is a good cause. White House spokesman Joe Lockhart treats Flynt's publications as responsible, in contrast to the Washington Times, American Spectator and other conservative-leaning publications.

The truth is that we are confusing hypocrisy with human frailty. "Do as I say, not as I do" does not define a hypocrite. Failing to meet our moral aspirations is proof that we all have feet of clay and that we all fall short. True hypocrisy requires a pretense of accepting certain moral beliefs in public while rejecting those beliefs in one's heart. The difference is enormous.

Today's political weapon of choice requires attacking others as hypocrites for failing to live up to standards that the hypocrite praises publicly. Thus, a man who publicly proclaims that he is pro-family is a hypocrite if evidence surfaces that he had an illicit affair or that he is divorced. Similarly, a man who proclaims his opposition to abortion is a hypocrite if a former lover had an abortion. In that way, the public person is morally superior if, aware of his own history, he remains silent on public issues that might prove inconsistent with his past actions. …

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