Volume 12, Issue 46 ~ November 11 - November 17, 2004
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Talking about Moral Values

Nope. Not us. Not after listening to the spin-arama and navel-gazing since the election about what divides Americans. And values are private, aren’t they?

But wait; what we’re hearing seems to be about more than politics. Shouldn’t we be able to talk about our values — principles and behaviors that guide our lives — without sinking into a political ruckus?

Our approach is to talk about what unites us in Chesapeake Country, not what divides us.

First, some footnotes. The 2004 vote is being called “the values election” because of what people who’d just voted told pollsters.

In CNN’s survey, 22 percent of Americans responded “moral values” when presented with a list of important issues. They rated moral values slightly ahead of the economy, terrorism and the Iraq war.

But when the L.A. Times and others who sponsored surveys presented a longer list of issues, moral values declined to a less remarkable 15 percent or so.

In other words, it’s possible that in the never-ending search for themes, our brethren in the news media and their pollsters might be slightly exaggerating what happened last week.

But we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Because we think there’s something there, which is why we consulted an acquaintance, John Kenneth White, who wrote the book The Values Divide: American Politics and Culture in Transition.

“If you know a person’s lifestyle, you have a pretty good indication of whom they are going to vote for. Whether they go to church regularly. Whether they’re married or single. Whether they have children living at home. Whether they go to Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, you can predict which candidate they support,” said White, a professor at Catholic University in D.C.

At Bay Weekly, we like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. Which gets us to the issue of what unites us, not what divides us.

In Chesapeake Country, we’re united by geography; by family values; by spiritual values; by a rich culture. Notably, we’re also united by Chesapeake Bay: its geography; its culture; its beauty; it’s where we play and where we hope working people continue to be able to earn their livelihoods.

But it’s not enough just to say the Bay brings us together.

The clear, cold realities of this election aftermath — war, tax cuts and a pro-industry bent — mean that there will be less money for the Chesapeake and less commitment to conservation. Environmental Protection Agency officials have already declared a “mandate” for continuing policies that roll back existing protections.

That’s not sour grapes. That’s the way it is; the people have spoken, and now we must live with the choices we’ve made.

Which brings us back to values. Values amount to more than how many times you park your back side in a pew. Values
are made up of what you believe, not just what you think. Values are more than programs and policies; values are our roots connections.

This is what the losing side last week didn’t understand. They could cite policies till the cows come home. But they didn’t know how to speak the language of values.

This election taught us that for now, if you can’t — or won’t — tell people what you believe and why you believe it, you stand to lose. In the uncertain times ahead in Chesapeake Country, that strikes us as a risk not worth taking.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.