Moral High Ground: Definitions.
Moral (adjective): the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical; founded on the fundamental principles of right conduct rather than on legalities, enactment, or custom.
High Ground (noun): a position of moral or ethical superiority.
Per these definitions, the Moral High Ground may be claimed when one displays an understanding of right from wrong, regardless of the laws of the land. Doing what’s right may be illegal, but per the definition, if you are choosing ethical behavior over obeying the law, you can sleep easy (in your jail cell, perhaps, but still…) knowing you possess the Moral High Ground.
Moral High Ground — Knowing Right from Wrong.
But how do we define “Right” and “Wrong”? What’s right for me may be completely wrong from someone else’s perspective. I would think we could agree that if an individual is in danger of physical harm, acting to protect that individual would be a “right” choice — even if that action is illegal.
For example, if a child is being abused and our legal system repeatedly forces that child to return to her home, is it beyond the scope of reason to suggest kidnapping that child and placing her in hiding until she reaches the age of legal adult? I would suggest that the ethical thing would be for someone — a vigilante, taking the law into his/her own hands — to step in and protect the child, laws be damned.
Most people don’t agree with me on that. When faced with this situation myself, those who were “in the know” encouraged me to let the system, flawed though it might be, take care of itself. Because, after all, following the laws was the “Right” thing to do. Even though it meant placing a child in physical and emotional danger, it was deemed by onlookers that this was the more “Correct” and “Ethical” thing to do. Allowing a child to continually be victimized was somehow okay, because we no longer look beyond the law as it is written. (See my stance on Zero Tolerance Policies for more thoughts on this topic.)
I don’t know about you, but following a law like that doesn’t make me feel like I’m standing on the Moral High Ground, and it doesn’t allow me to sleep well at night. But you gotta do what feels right for you, I guess. Likewise, I must be able to face my reflection every morning, and if I hadn’t been doing everything in my power to protect someone who needed my help, I wouldn’t have been able to do so very easily. Sorry, but fuck broken laws.
Moral High Ground — Even the Ten Commandments?
Doing what’s right is easy when ethics and laws fall in line: Don’t kill people. Simple enough, right? Don’t steal things. Sure, makes perfect sense. The Ten Commandments cover a lot of this, and fundamental Christians believe in their perfect law.
You shall have no other gods before me.
- You shall not make for yourself any likeness of anything that is in heaven above. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God.
- You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
- Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,but the seventh day is a Sabbath. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
- Honor your father and your mother.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet anything that is your neighbor’s.
But what happens when life doesn’t conform to these rules? I will skip the first three, as they do not apply to me and my beliefs and breaking them isn’t going to potentially put anyone at physical risk. Unless, of course, God decides to pull another of his tantrum-y flooding stunts, in which case, we’re all screwed anyway.
Moral High Ground: Let’s start with number FOUR.
Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,but the seventh day is a Sabbath. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
What if your job is to protect the public? What if you are military, or medical, or police, or fire staff? This type of employment does not conform to the Sabbath day system. Which is more immoral: to not answer your pager because it’s the Sabbath and by golly you’re going to keep it holy per God’s law — even though there’s a fire, or someone’s heart transplant just arrived? Or to break that so-called law, do your effing job, and save a life?
I’m guessing that (a) if you want to keep your job, and (b) if you are a moral person, you’re sometimes going to skip keeping the Sabbath holy. In which case, you have broken the Ten Commandments (and likely you do so on a regular basis). BUT! You do retain the Moral High Ground. Not sure how God fits in with all this, but I’d like to think that any GOOD god would want you to put the safety and protection of others first — since, you know, Jesus was all about loving thy neighbor and whatnot.
Moral High Ground: Moving on to number FIVE.
Honor your father and your mother.
Honor (verb): to hold in high respect; to revere; to worship; to show a courteous regard for.
I don’t know about revering and worshipping, necessarily — that seems a bit much for people who merely fulfilled their biological imperative to procreate. I mean, seriously? ANYBODY can have sex. And the female body is set up for baking babies and spitting them out. I have a hard time seeing the logic behind celebrating a man’s ejaculation into a woman’s tunnel of love as anything more than what it is: nature at its best. Men can be cool, don’t get me wrong — but just because a dude is able to get off (just like, you know, all the other men in the world!) is no reason to ascribe a sense of “high respect” to the dude who bears your DNA.
I get conveying respect unto parents who don’t suck. I like my folks a lot, and my kids seem to like me and my hubz a lot, too. But my parents will be waiting a very long time if they think I’m going to worship them, and my own kids would die laughing if I tried to evoke that in right in my own household.
And what about abuse victims? I don’t think a child who has been sexually molested by either of her parents is an asshole if s/he decided those particular parents are less than worthy of respect. Matter of fact, I wouldn’t be pissed off at all if the child in question smacked the assaulting parent upside the head with a frying pan.
Moral High Ground: Which leads us to number SIX.
You shall not murder.
I’m not even going to ask your opinion about this. Touch my kids wrong, you die. There is no law in the world to stop me from protecting my family. Obeying any such law would, in my world, be highly immoral. Laws don’t apply to me if they allow harm unto the people I love. I would willingly serve a jail sentence if it meant I’d acted in the best interest — chosen RIGHT over WRONG — of my family.
Moreover, I’ve come to like myself enough that I’d have zero problem murdering in self-defense, either. Let this be a warning to those would like to get up on this hot bod. If you live to regret it, you will be living a wiener-free lifestyle. Enjoy!
OMG. I can totally hear that ONE person out there who is all, “You’re advocating murder, Andi-Roo. You should totally have your kids taken away and burn in hell and all that noise.” Shut up, asshole. I’m not sitting here plotting out anyone’s death, okay? I’m crazy, but I’m not psychotic. Jesus, get a grip!
Moral High Ground: Oh. Number SEVEN. Hmmm.
You shall not commit adultery.
I have lots to say about this, having been on both sides of the equation. I’m sure most of us can admit to being cheated on. We are all victim, of course. And it’s almost always a shocker when the truth is revealed. So yeah, I can totally get on board with being angst-y against those who commit adultery.
But, okay, YES. I cheated on my ex. Like, for exactly a week before I came clean. I sat him down at the table, where we had not sat together in months. I pointed to the couch where I’d been sleeping alone for months, because I refused to lie in bed next to someone who wasn’t even trying in the slightest to “get” my issues. As I pointed to my makeshift bed, I told him that our marriage was over, and that I wanted out. I told him I was seeing someone else, and that I didn’t want to lie about it. I told him, since I was the one walking away, he could take whatever material things he wanted, because I didn’t want to be “THAT” ex-wife who took her spouse to the cleaner just to be a money-hungry bitch. I told him I wanted a clean break, no fuss, no fighting and ridiculousness.
At the time, he was crushed. He knew I’d been broken for quite a while, but it never occurred to him that I’d try to get myself fixed by standing up on my own. When I came to him for help, crying about my depression and begging for a hand, he told me to “grow up” and to “get over it” and to “stop living in the past” and to “move on.” So I did. I took his advice. Unfortunately for him, “growing up” meant growing away. “Getting over it” meant getting help from someone who would support my journey to better mental health. “Stop living in the past” meant admitting that our relationship had been over for a really long time. “Moving on” meant… well… moving on.
So do I support adultery? No, I do not. I think lying and cheating is a terribly selfish thing to do, a cruel way to treat someone else. Trickery and secrets aren’t my thing. For a week I was a rotten human being. And that’s why I came forward. I could not condone my own behavior.
But I will tell you right here and now: I do not regret my decision in the slightest. The guy who saw me through those dark days, the guy who helped me find myself, the guy who basically saved me (or, as he would tell it, gave me a hand so I could save myself), is my current hubz. We have been together almost seven years now, and are still in love, laughing and snuggling and playing and having a great time together. He is a supportive husband to me, and a terrific father to my kids.
So even on this Commandment, law, or rule… there are exceptions. You don’t have to agree. It doesn’t matter. I know I’m at a better place for having taken the actions I chose to take, and that’s all that matters.
Moral High Ground: Let’s take a break.
Whew. I have more to say on the topic of what it means to stand on the Moral High Ground. Much more. Lots. But I’m going to take a break here and continue on next week. I have to go put myself back together now. That was deeper than I intended to go.