If you enjoyed the old Warner Brothers cartoons on television when you were a kid, you may remember watching the misadventures of Pepe Le Pew–the frisky skunk who spoke with a French accent. His character gag consisted of cluelessness, hedonism, and stinky hubris. Pepe was at heart, a male chauvenist who had no sense of propriety towards the female cat he crudely, obsessively pursued.
Were the cartoonists sending a helpful or harmful message to children by showcasing the skunk’s coarse, stupid behavior? Looney Tunes only created 18 Pepe Le Pew animated short films, so he was not a major character like Bugs Bunny. There are limited ways that male chauvinism can be safely used in children’s entertainment. The fact that Pepe was depicted as a fool makes me surmise that the cartoon writers hoped to discourage their young audience from such behavior. As a young boy at the time, I laughed at Pepe, but he was not one of my favorites.
It seems to me that crude, careless behavior has become somewhat the norm in modern society these days. Chauvinistic behavior is shamelessly present in many quarters but even more troubling is the seeming acceptability of fraud and violence. Celebrities and politicians enjoy a free pass regarding their public misdeeds. The “Teflon President (Reagan)” devolved into the “Teflon Don” phenomenon. Politicians are somehow able to get nominated and elected in spite of despicable, scandalous behavior. What is it that allows some leaders but not others invulnerable to allegations of corruption, and other unethical behavior? I wish I knew the answer.
Just as troubling, is the crude behavior by a small number of professional athletes. Some of them began their lives in poverty and unprestigious circumstances. If they excel in their sports, they are given generous athletic scholarships. If their grades dip to failing, the administration looks the other way and the star players are waved through. Their school sports successes attract professional recruiters. Then they are signed to multi-million-dollar contracts. They believe that social rules do not apply to them. Throughout their careers, their misdeeds are covered up or otherwise overlooked. If penalized, the star athlete pays the fine and continues otherwise unabated. This unethical, bad behavior is so common that the public accepts it as normal. Yet if average citizens committed these same offences we would end up in prison.
Some executives in the corporate world have been rightfully criticized for their excesses. Infamous examples of income inequality abound. The top rung of leaders are living lavish lifestyles while their warehouse workers are strongly discouraged from taking standard toilet breaks. We consumers shrug our shoulders and enjoy cheaply priced merchandise. After all, this is just the way the world runs–there’s not much we can do about it.
I could write a laundry-list of ethically and morality challenged leaders from rogue politicians to religious clergy. I won’t continue because that’s not the main point of today’s little rant. I cite examples of coarse behavior because I know we are capable of being better citizens. We cannot continue to give unethical, criminally motivated people a get out of jail free card.
We have the children’s futures to consider. One wonders what type of America we will bequeath to them by allowing and rewarding terrible behavior. If we continue going down the path of unethical behavior and the stripping away of basic civil rights, we will be handing off an empty shell of a nation to the next generations. The egotistical temper tantrums of business, governmental, and religious titans should be a concern for every grass-roots citizen. Coarse, reckless behavior must be called out. Ultimately, it is the citizen base that ensures that the rule of law applies equally to everyone regardless of social status.
America’s problems are legion, but so are the numbers of U.S. citizens. It is time again to penalize companies, organizations, and people for terrible behavior. It’s also time to reward the folks who do the right things and provide useful service to the common good. Willful ignorance of wrong-doing is a virtual guarantee of further and worse bad behavior. We can clean up the country’s act without resorting to crude moralism. We already have laws on the books to remedy most problematic scenarios. In my opinion, it’s time to equitably enforce those laws.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes California Congressman, Antonio Cárdenas. “The American people are happy to help small businesses grow, but paying fines for multi-millionaires, subsidizing bad behavior, should not be the responsibility of American taxpayers.”