Little Changes That Become Big Changes

John Kass of the Chicago Tribune had a column April 1st titled Beware of letting the unacceptable become the norm.

He speaks about Terri Schindler Schiavo and wonders what is next…

I suppose that no matter which side of this you’re on, you’ll have questions. Those of you who think she should have died will wonder: When will people like me ever shut up about this?

And those of us on the other side will wonder which disability will next be judged as not affording an adequate quality of life? Whose lives are worthy?

But there is another question that won’t let go of me: How did we get to this place, where we’ve come to accept what was done to Terri Schiavo?

What was once horrible has now become acceptable, familiar the way a landscape becomes familiar. No matter how gruesome or spectacular, over time you become used to it. Eventually, you can walk through it without feeling any need to comment.

And that’s what’s being urged now, a general consensus forming by those who don’t want to hear complaints, that it’s time to be silent about Schiavo, that we shouldn’t give offense, that we should accept her death as inevitable, perhaps rationalize her death as a blessing.

When John heard the announcement on the radio he was reading a column by John Leo in US News and World Report who quoted Rev. Richard Neuhaus, editor of First Things.

He says he will memorize this quote. I think I will too.

“Thousands of ethicists and bioethicists, as they are called, professionally guide the unthinkable on its passage through the debatable on its way to becoming the justifiable, until it is finally established as the unexceptional.”

There was a day when the Playtex Cross Your Heart bra was advertised on television and the model wore the bra OVER a turtleneck sweater. Underwear, worn normally, was just not shown on television. Now Victoria’s Secret advertises bras with a lot less coverage directly on the model. This change was accepted completely.

There was a day when anti-perspirants and deodorants were advertised on television and the model demonstrated the product on the inside of the forearm. The brother of a friend of mine, when first using these products, put it on his armpits and on his forearms, because they did it on television. Armpits were just not shown in a television commercial. Now we see women applying the product correctly in television commercials. This change was accepted completely. We don’t see men applying the product though. I guess a man’s armpit still is just not shown on television.

Rob and Laura Petrie of the Dick Van Dyke show had separate twin beds in their bedroom. Two characters of the opposite sex, even if married, were just not shown in the same bed on television. Then came NYPD Blue and we saw the naked backsides of two male characters. This change was accepted completely.

These changes are insidious, they happen when we aren’t looking and then become accepted. It becomes “well, we can do this, so why can’t we do that?

Remember the Golden Rule? “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” That seems to have changed to “Do unto others whatever you can get away with, and if you get caught, put the blame on anything and anyone other than yourself.”

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