From the 1/25/2012 Wayland Town Crier:


I am a values voter. Oh, perhaps not the values voter that comes to mind for Messrs. Santorum, Romney or Gingrich, but a values voter nonetheless.

The occasion of their respective wins in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and their accompanying incessant and insulting chorus of “values this” and “values that,” started me thinking a bit more carefully about the meaning of the word.

The values they cite are alternately “family” or “traditional” or “conservative” or “religious.” Those characterizations notwithstanding, desirable values by whatever adjective are rarely if ever enumerated by those most likely to wield them. To right that wrong, and allowing for additions that this quickly compiled list inadvertently omits, how about (in no particular order): Honesty. Trust. Loyalty. Compassion. Respect. Discipline. Support. Sharing. Responsibility. Fairness. Morality.

Whether filtered through the lens of family, tradition, conservatism or religion, these values – with one exception – leave little room for interpretation and raise little controversy. Explicit or implicit assertions by the aforementioned values champions to the contrary, nor do they remotely exclude anyone who might be single, or gay, or atheist, or even liberal. (“Exclusion,” to be sure, doesn’t come close to any reasonable list of values to which to aspire.)

Unlike its companions above, morality does leave room for argument. I’ll bypass the temptation to debate forever the difference between morals versus ethics and between relativism versus absolutism, and settle instead on Sam Harris’ beautifully simple statement to the effect that morality is that set of thoughts and actions that seeks happiness and avoids misery.

Put another way, morality strikes me as something like the sum of the other values I’ve listed above. Regardless of how we define morality or what we include in our respective baskets of values, the intolerance with which the latter are invoked to divide us is wholly antithetical to the true meaning of the word.

I am a values voter. – Jeff Dieffenbach, Pleasant Street