Belfast Telegraph

US Presidential race epitomises how society has lost any sense of dignity

By Alf McCreary

On the US dollar bills there is the message "In God We Trust", but there is nothing Godly about the debates between the two candidates for next month's American Presidential election.

America is a supposedly Christian country, so people have a right to expect a civilised and dignified tone from those taking part, but in fact this has been one of the most undignified campaigns in US history.

Many of Donald Trump's remarks on and off the campaign trail have been appalling, and while his boasting about his sexual conquests and tax affairs will alienate many people, they may only increase his appeal to his core of white male supporters who will admire how he has been able to get away with it.

Hillary Clinton has been forced to attack Trump repeatedly with harsh personal criticism, to the point where one wonders if there is any decency left in American politics.

In this week's debate there was almost a gasp of astonishment when one audience member asked if there was anything positive that the candidates could say about one another.

Trump admired Hillary's "fighting spirit", and Hillary praised Trump's children. The fact that these positive remarks made news, is a reflection on the degree to which public life has coarsened in recent years.

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This is happening on our side of the Atlantic too. The Labour members have been vicious about one another, as well as the Government, and over here our politicians have been trading insults endlessly.

Many politicians don't realise that the general public despises such behaviour, and that people would welcome mature debate among politicians, some of whom sink to the lowest common denominator.

This summer I met many Americans when I was giving lectures on the cruise ship Caribbean Princess, and almost all of them were asking "How have we descended into this situation where we have to choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for the Presidency?"

The gradual lowering of standards of public behaviour began several decades previously when we began to be told that almost "anything goes."

Few voices spoke out in protest, and those who did were savagely criticised as bigots and spoil-sports.

One of these was Mary Whitehouse who conducted a virtually one-woman campaign, and she was demeaned by the television hierarchy, particularly in the BBC.

During this period I interviewed Mrs Whitehouse at length on a BBC Radio Ulster series I used to present, and I found her to be a charming and eminently sensible woman, with clear Christian values.

I am not suggesting that she was always right, but I admired her sheer courage in campaigning for what she believed in, despite the fierce criticism and ridicule she faced.

Therefore I was glad, and not surprised, to read in The Times this week, that a liberal barrister who had carried out a running battle with Mary Whitehouse admitted that she may have been right.

Lord Hutchinson has now admitted that she was right to pursue her campaign against depictions of sex and violence on television.

He said: "It was a perfectly reasonable view to take, that perhaps morals have become a bit too loose with exposure to pornography, and violence, and computer games... but the genie is out of the bottle."

Only this week we heard that around 100,000 men in the UK regularly watch child porn images online.

No one quite knows how to put the genie back in the bottle again, but our society needs to regain the dignity and respect that characterised the behaviour of our parents and grandparents in their times.

In almost any other era of recent history the language and attitudes of Donald Trump would bar him from winning the Presidency, but I fear that despite everything he still might win. That is not a happy thought for a nation whose currency bears the slogan "In God We Trust", or for any of us.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph