Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Rules and Forgiveness

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Rules and Forgiveness

Article excerpt

We are a much more forgiving society than the one in which I grew up. And this, on balance, is progress. I recall how in high school a girl in one of my classes became pregnant. It was mentioned in hushed tones. It was a scandal - to us - of great proportions: The girl and the boy involved - he and I had been longtime chums - became outcasts. There was no road back for them, no chance for forgiveness. The last I heard about these two, they were living in poverty on the edge of town. It was shameful, the way we treated those youngsters. I felt very sorry for them. But all of us then accepted the judgment that such conduct deserved such a penalty.

All of that has changed, and thank goodness for that. In exchange for this more charitable attitude toward such teenage pregnancies we have, of course, paid a price. Their occurrence has become commonplace.

I have noticed of late how forgiving our society has become of those in the public limelight. An adviser to the president is caught up in a prostitute-related scandal. He admits it, says he's sorry, and within a few months is at the president's side again, advising a more-conservative political path. He also writes a book. The public shrugs.

A prominent TV sports announcer becomes involved in a lurid sexual adventure. He does lose his job. But 10 months later he's rehired to an important radiocast position. Forgiveness has, for the most part, taken place. The fellow will also probably write a book and make a lot of money out of the whole affair.

Along this same line, in my opinion, are the polls that show how much the president is benefiting from this new public willingness to forgive. Evidently more than half of all Americans are willing to support Mr. Clinton even if he not only had an extramarital sexual relationship in the White House but, also, lied under oath and persuaded someone else to lie under oath.

Then there's the expert opinion I so often heard and read in the analysis of the 1996 presidential election: That voters who elected Clinton had "forgiven" him for whatever personal wrongdoing he may have been involved in over the years - including sexual affairs, Whitewater financial dealing, fudging in his dealing with the draft, smoking pot, etc. …

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