By Dr. Jim Ferguson

I grew up watching Looney Tunes cartoons. Every generation laments their “good ole days,” but the modern version of children’s television is vastly different from the old escapades of Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny and Foghorn Leghorn. I’m no expert on education, but I’m supposed to pay attention to what my grandson, Oakley, is watching. I will say that the modern Mickey Mouse Club on television is better than most of the rest, and is far more educational than when I watched the Mouseketeers and sang along: “M-I-C, see ya real soon. K-E-Y, why? Because we like you! M-O-U-S-E.”

We had “educational” cartoons when I was a kid. I loved the history lessons Mr. Peabody taught Sherman as they traveled backward in time to meet famous people. Peabody used his “wayback machine,” long before Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I think my passion for classical music began while watching Bugs Bunny as the Barber of Seville shave the hapless Elmer Fudd to the accompaniment of Rossini’s timeless music.

I think kids benefit from educational programs, but other times they just need to play, use their imagination and laugh.  And slapstick comedy is fanciful and fun. I’ve heard some object to the “violence” of old cartoons as Wile E. Coyote is flummoxed by the Roadrunner or a piece of dynamite blows up and singes the handlebar mustache of Yosemite Sam.

Cartoon slapstick makes my grandson, Oakley, laugh out loud – a far cry from the politically correct (PC) pablum of modern “cartoon” fare. We had enough social commentary in our old cartoons, and I can’t remember being confused as a kid. Recently, an old Yosemite Sam and Bugs Bunny episode, where Sam appears as Klondike Sam, caught my eye. The prologue reads, “The Klondike, where men are men and women are women – a darn good arrangement.”

Everything changes, but as you get older you embrace change more slowly. In the last year of my traditional medical practice, I remember ventilating to my nurse one day about the unreasonable demands of one of my patients. An older patient insisted that I falsify a diagnosis so that her insurance would cover the tests she wanted. Despite my explanation that to do so would be dishonest, she remained adamant. As my nurse and I discussed alternatives, a younger employee overheard our conversation and explained I shouldn’t be concerned that my patient was displeased. This millennial gal said my “time” was over.  She said it was her “generation’s time to run things” instead of the baby boomer’s. And she assured me that “millennials will have no problem telling the older folks no.”

Obviously, this postmodern age of ours has a new standard of decorum and rhetoric. Apparently, some of the talking head experts don’t understand the “new-speak” of PC and Twitter or the coarse verbiage that requires an Urban Dictionary for comprehension. These experts believe that leaders and Presidential candidates should conform to old standards. If that were true, Barack Obama as President would have united us rather than further dividing us, “crooked” Hillary Clinton would be in jail, a socialist would not be challenging the Democrat party for leadership and Trump would not need street verbiage to confront the hypocrisy and dishonesty of the media.

The system is corrupt and broken. Conservatives like me eschew rapid transformation of the American way of life. The word conservative derives from a Latin root word which translates “to preserve” things such as tradition. Conservatives prefer incremental change rather than revolution. Unfortunately, we are already in a state of revolution and the “barely civil war” I’ve written about previously is now uncivil.

Our institutions and titular leaders are no longer deemed trustworthy or capable of fixing the problems. Many believe the system can’t be fixed with simple incremental measures. Julius Caesar was a revolutionary, and perhaps another is marching on Washington. Many believe that we need a revolution in Washington and someone other than the Democrat Party’s chosen heir, Hillary Clinton. I wonder if Bernie and his followers really believe the Democrat establishment will allow him be the Party’s nominee? They should watch the Netflix series House of Cards to understand the reality of the situation.

I am pleased that one institution stepped back from destruction. Recently, the United Methodist Church backed away from the schism that gutted the American Episcopal and Presbyterian churches. At the world wide Quadrennial meeting in May, Methodist delegates decided to be methodical and form a committee to make recommendations regarding the controversial issue of human sexuality and Church doctrine. Methodists are famous – or infamous – for committees. I’ve observed many good ideas dissipate in Methodist committees. You could say our leaders merely “kicked the can down the road” instead of voting on such fractious issues.

The Washington boys and gals are truly infamous. Obama and Harry Reid haven’t passed a Federal budget in more than seven years, and have kept the government going with “continuing resolutions.” Perhaps a conservative problem solving approach and consensus building is preferable to schism or Executive Orders from Pennsylvania Avenue. Americans and Methodists are fundamentally democratic. Note that I used the small “d” rather than a big “D” of the Democrat party. Mr. Sanders, the latter is anything but democratic.

America is changing or already has. Years ago I read the book “UnChristian” which described research by the Barna Group on how the faithful are perceived by those outside the Church. The Barna researchers have an updated report entitled, The End of Absolutes: America’s New Moral Code. The data-filled report can be read at Apparently, “Americans are uncertain about how to tell right from wrong.” And as “Christian morality is being ushered out of American Social structures” the “broader culture is attempting to fill the vacuum.”

A little over a century ago Einstein conceived the physics of relativity. However, fifty years earlier, Victor Hugo wrote of situational ethics (and moral relativism?) in his masterpiece, “Les Miserables.” I am a theist and conceptualize an absolute good by which I measure myself and everything else. Logically, if there is no standard yardstick nothing can be measured. I believe human conscience flows from the Absolute which C. S. Lewis called a sense of “ought.” I believe Conscience is written on our DNA, so it must be nurtured.

The Barna Group has documented the increasing moral confusion in America as the “new morality of self-fulfillment” supplants God. I can understand the anxiety that this existential free-fall produces. Neither self-actualization, power, money, accolades, drugs, sex or rock ‘n’ roll can fill that void. Only the Absolute can save a man.