A weekly column in the Sunday Times Magazine concerns questions of ethics which are addressed by three experts at least partially selected for the diversity they’re meant to represent. With first names like Kwame, Kenji and Amy, we can see immediately that this troika come from different races and ethnicities. In a rare example of e pluribus unum, all three moral mavens responded in unanimity to this week’s question which concerned the following dilemma.
A homosexual college student wonders whether it’s ethical for him to lie to his father who has expressed his unwillingness to pay his tuition and support if the son is engaged in a homosexual lifestyle. The father had previously found love letters between his son and another student which the son vigorously denied. With slight variations in emphasis, all the ethicists found that it is permissible to lie to a homophobic parent and to forgive oneself for doing so. They further asserted that a father with means has an obligation to provide such funds for college; lying is therefor a way of ensuring that the father will be saved from the sin of failing to do his duty.
Not one of the three asked whether the father’s objections came from his religious faith, something that might be as unshakeable as the young man’s sexual proclivities. No one asked whether the son had lied about other things as well that made the father suspicious of his son’s veracity. No one suggested that a young man of 18 could attend a City College and get a job after school and during summer breaks to try to support his own education without resorting to lying. He might also get a day job and go to school at night which would take longer but preserve his self-respect for truly being independent in his principles and life choices. No one pointed out that the best way to be free of someone else’s judgments is to be self-supporting, a road taken by very many young men and women in generations preceding the age of narcissistic entitlement and that undoubtedly still exists in families that can’t afford the assumption of crippling debt.
The only suggestion that came close was to encourage the young homosexual to seek aid from a foundation that offers scholarships to LGBTQ students. What came through most resoundingly in this column was that the sins of homophobia and bullying - the most trendy of our current bête noirs - automatically trump the sin of lying, removing it from its ethical basis and making it a natural and understandable response to an unforgiveable position. The ethicists are black, white and yellow but their verdicts are strictly black and white, with no shades in between that would account for the right of a parent to disapprove so strongly of his child’s lifestyle that he cannot support it. We can understand zero tolerance for that attitude in matters of life and death which is why the state intervenes when Christian Scientists refuse to get transfusions for their critically ill children. But according to today’s Times, sexuality exists across a broad spectrum from hetero to bi to homo to trans to pan-sexuality (with or without animals). There is more to sexuality than biological imperatives and people segue across this spectrum depending on many other factors and influences, not least of which is peer group or societal pressure.
Advice to lie to one’s parent or benefactor without any feeling of guilt is a corruption of character-building and nothing that will help a young man feel proud of himself. This is advice rooted in politically correct sentiment - it stands shadily in opposition to ethics.
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