Principle does rear its magnificent head on occasion, and we are in awe of those who sacrifice for inviolate standards. The Mesa First Assembly of God (Mesa, Ariz.) returned $70,000 it had received in donations from a man who was paying a partial tithe on $1.6 million he had embezzled from his employer, Honeywell. While the church balked at first, it did return money tainted by ill-gotten gains. Filthy lucre, taken even when the source is unknown, is still filthy lucre.
The Salvation Army turned down $100,000 from the winner of $14.3 million in Florida's Lotto. Maj. Cleo Damon returned the check to David Rush as a spokeswoman for the Salvation Army explained, "There are times where Major Damon is counseling families who are about to become homeless because of gambling. He really believes that if he had accepted the money, he would be talking out of both sides of his mouth."
The donor called Damon "sanctimonious," adding the lottery was not gambling, "There's no bigger gamble than investing in the stock market. For them to say this is gambling is an overstatement." Perhaps so, but Damon is not counseling stock market addicts.
While political backlash may have been the true motive, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., gave the $69,000 in PAC donations he had received from Enron to the Enron Ex-Employee Relief Fund. We all know how tough it is for a Democrat to give back money to the people to whom it belongs.
The Catholic Diocese of New York has filed suit to challenge a New York law that requires it to pay for contraceptives as part of its health insurance for employees. The cost for providing such coverage is minimal, but the diocese honors the tenets of faith. How can the church cover contraceptives for employees in its 800 schools, 40 hospitals and 61 nursing homes when it counsels its members against the use of birth control?
The Mississippi University for Women kicked MTV off its campus. Administrators had given permission for the show to interview students on campus. But when they learned the title of the series for which MTV was interviewing, "Sex and the Itty Bitty City," they declined fame and gave the raucous network the big hook.
They risk fortune, fame, popularity and even funding for principle. Why? Because not standing firm makes them uncomfortable. Hypocrisy irks them.
Tony Blair and George Bush have declining poll numbers. Targets of protests and focus of disdain, they still stand firm on disarming the diabolical Saddam.
Principle executed always costs the executor. Mark Twain's words:
"The weakest of all weak things is virtue that has not been tested in the fire." Rationalization does get the better of most principle.
Seventy thousand dollars in the hands of a church and $100,000 in the hands of the well-run Salvation Army could be leveraged into much good. But, accepting those funds causes tension between values and goals. What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?
The principle-challenged lack either backbone or logic. A New York Times reporter offered the following analysis of the Michael Jackson interviews, television's creepiest moments since Tiny Tim married Miss Vickie on the Carson Show: This "is all a good thing. What seems to be lost in the concern for Mr. Jackson's children and underage friends or disgust over televisions' excesses is that the more we see of Mr. Jackson right now, the healthier we are as a nation: at least it indicates we are not at war."
Let me try and follow this. If we're watching perverts who dangle children from hotel balconies on television, we're better off than if we went to war to remove an evil despot who threatens us with nuclear and biological weapons and al-Qaida?
These relativists earn the trust and focus of the people as Bush and Blair twist in the wind. Sean Penn, doped-up Spicoli of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and a deadhead walking, was lionized for mixing it up with Saddam. George Clooney, Ed Harris, Susan Sarandon and other paparazzi fodder have respect. Our president and Mr. Blair, who stand before us sacrificing their political futures, are mocked.
Singer Sheryl Crow, whose latest hit involved the praising of sunscreen, lectures us that war is "an admission of failure." Actually, war is the ultimate act of principle. The now-spineless French understood that when they participated with us in our fight for freedom, handing us a turning point via Operation Lafayette at Yorktown. Vivre liberte!
The "make love, not war" crowd reincarnated rants again because moral relativists cannot grasp absolutes. Principle cannot speak to the unprincipled. They pick, they choose, they compromise. Their only principle is the right to waffle. Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair sacrifice all as the airhead heathens around them claim the high moral ground and the media coverage at no personal cost.
Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org