The Virtue of Discretion
Those are the ten headings listed in the "Contents" page of William J. Bennett's 1993 book The Book of Virtues: A treasury of Great Moral Stories.
Nowhere in that list, and nowhere even in the index of that book do I find the word "discretion." Why not?
Discretion - the quality of being discreet
Discretion is an interesting thing. Jeff Gannon promised to be discreet on his websites promising homosexual services in the Washington DC area for $200 an hour. Dating services that specialize in adult services including extra-marital affairs are full of ads promising discretion. This kind if discretion is merely secrecy painted with a virtuous word.
I once belonged to a Bible thumping church led by an easy-going, almost always smiling, full of humor pastor who enjoyed the confidence and the trust of his congregation up until it became apparent that he had fathered a child by the wife of a young deaf church-going man who was killed in an automobile accident. In disgrace, this pastor was made to confess what he had done to his congregation. I witnessed his confession. My impression was that he hadn't confessed to any sin. Why should he? He loved this woman and wanted her to be his wife some day. How could it have been sin? Rather, he seemed to confess to his betrayal of trust, to hurting his congregation. In other words, he asked forgiveness for the indiscretion, for allowing the truth to come out.
Donald Rumsfeld, when the abu Ghraib prison photos surfaced on the Internet and then in the news, complained about how easy it is now to get pictures like these circulated all around the world. Rather than showing concern for the abuse, his concern was over the indiscretion of the soldiers involved. I suppose that explains why only the soldiers involved in the pictures were punished.
In recent months, Americans have been asked to forgive Bill Bennett for his indiscretion in suggesting that we could reduce crime by exterminating the Black race in America. When Jeff Gannon was revealed to be a male homosexual prostitute and not a legitimate Washington journalist, we were expected to forgive the indiscretion of the White House. We have been told by Condoleeza Rice not to impugn her integrity by suggesting that she lied to us about Iraq or 9/11 or anything else that she lied to us about. To maintain respectability as a legitimate nation, we are to remain discreet about such things. The same holds true with respect to the Pentagon, Karl Rove, Bill Frist, Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, Alberto Gonzales and the abuse of war prisoners, dual-citizenship Neo-cons in high positions in the Bush government, Bill Bennett's gambling habits, and the sexual escapades of countless Republicans connected to the White House and Congress.
The problem is that the virtue expected of conservatives is discretion, secrecy. Conservatives generally concede that their leaders can be whoever they are in their private lives and even in their public lives as long as they are discreet about it. The sin is in breaking down the walls of secrecy and letting the truth escape out into the public. Indiscretion leads to embarrassment for the righteous Right. Indiscretion is the hallmark of the Left exemplified by the homosexual rights movement and the public acceptance of abortion. Conservatives are supposed to do these things in secret while publicly proclaiming the horrors of that kind of behavior.
Out of dire need, conservatives have adopted a coping mechanism which they use to overcome the effects of all these indiscretions. That coping mechanism is forgiveness. Conservatives find it in their hearts to forgive immoral conservatives. The conservative mantra in light of these indiscretions is, "Nobody is perfect." Rush Limbaugh takes drugs? Nobody is perfect. Bill Bennett has a gambling problem? Nobody is perfect. Karl Rove is involved in a high-level White House conspiracy to falsify intelligence about Iraq and in the process endangers a CIA operative? Nobody is perfect. Bill Frist makes a bundle of money by selling stock in a family-run corporation just in time before the stock value plummets? Nobody is perfect. Tom DeLay breaks every ethics rule in the book when it comes to campaign financing and influence peddling? Nobody is perfect. Why, just look at the sleazy liberal making the charges!
The thing that is hardest for me to understand, though, is why it is so easy and so natural for conservative Christians to go along with this nonsense.