“There’s a real lack of moral fiber,” he said, before launching into a story about local criminality, theft, drug smuggling, and a situation that—while murder may not have happened yet—was certainly in the offering.
“It’s almost like No Country For Old Men,” another party in the conversation quipped. Trying to recall the lines from the film, I misquoted, so I’ll quote accurately here from Ed Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones [emphasis mine]:
“…You can’t help but compare yourself against the old timers. Can’t help but wonder how they would have operated these times.
There was this boy I sent to the ‘lectric chair at Huntsville Hill here a while back. My arrest and my testimony. He killt a fourteen-year-old girl. Papers said it was a crime of passion but he told me there wasn’t any passion to it.
Told me that he’d been planning to kill somebody for about as long as he could remember.
Said that if they turned him out he’d do it again.
Said he knew he was going to hell. “Be there in about fifteen minutes”.
I don’t know what to make of that. I sure don’t. The crime you see now, it’s hard to even take its measure. It’s not that I’m afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. But, I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He’d have to say, “O.K., I’ll be part of this world.”
A person observes it happening and the temptation is to believe that it has always been this way. The sky has always been falling, and it’s always been the end of the world.
But the reality is, things really have changed and our conflict culture (which used to be focused around, first going along to get along) is now increasingly focused on winning at the expense of everything else.
When the clarity of fiction sheds light on the murkiness of facts, the problem revealed is deep at the core of our culture and society.
The further away culture drifts from a moral core, the harder civility and grace become, both as states to attain and as skills to practice.
We see this fact in our conflict communication, in the tools that ramp up and give power to the tendencies we already had, and in the interactions, we allow to happen to us on a daily basis.
How many of us are willing to push our chips forward and meet something, without moral fiber, that we don’t understand?
H/T to the Anonymous Storyteller who mentioned this to me.