Friday, July 20 , 2018, 4:00 am | Overcast 66º


Harris Sherline: Modern America a Study in Contradictions

Schizophrenic behavior can give us the wrong idea.

Notwithstanding our laws against entering the United States illegally, far too many of America’s leaders continue to tolerate the millions of people crossing our borders who are labeled “undocumented workers,” in an obvious effort to disguise their true status.


For purely political reasons, enforcement of our immigration laws has been consistently ignored by many of those in authority, while at the same time people complain about the cost of government services that are provided to illegal immigrants, most notably health care, welfare and education.

• Voting. Voting may be an absolute right of citizenship, but some people object to the idea that voters should be required to provide proper identification at the polls, which they claim is evidence of prejudice against minorities. So, while we may have the right to vote, we shouldn’t have to prove that we are entitled to do so.

• College Tuition. California universities require out-of-state students to pay higher tuition fees than residents, but accord illegal immigrants the same status as residents. So, if a student from another state wishes to attend a state-financed university, his tuition fees will be substantially higher than the fees of those who are here illegally.

• Tobacco and Drugs. Tobacco is a legal product that is heavily taxed by the same government that historically subsidized tobacco farmers. Both the federal and state governments tax cigarettes, ostensibly to offset health care costs incurred by smokers or to finance programs designed to discourage people from smoking, but the money is often used for purposes completely unrelated to tobacco. If the product is so bad, why not just make it illegal? The obvious answer is that there is just too much money in it for the government and our politicians. So, the product stays legal and is heavily taxed, health considerations aside, so long as it keeps feeding money into the tax coffers.

We put people in jail for ingesting something they like, such as drugs, while tolerating, even encouraging, the aggressive marketing and dispensing of prescription drugs throughout our culture, including the schools.

• Children and Sex. We tell our children that sex before marriage or at too early an age is a bad idea, yet provide them with condoms at our schools. One school in Portland, Maine, planned to dispense birth control pills to girls as young as 11, in spite of the fact that they are below the age of consent and anyone having sex with them would be guilty of statutory rape.

• Abortion vs. Murder. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that abortion is a constitutional right. However, although it’s legal to abort a fetus at almost any stage of its development, including mere moments before the infant is born, it’s homicide if it is killed without the mother’s consent.  So, for some purposes, the law recognizes the fetus as a living person, for others it does not.

In many states, girls under age 18 must have their parents’ permission for a medical procedure or to have their ears pierced, but they can get an abortion without parental consent or knowledge.

• Debasing the Culture. We try to teach young people that they should be good citizens and respect the law, while at the same time the airwaves are flooded with music, videos and TV programs that are vulgar, challenge authority, celebrate violence, preach hatred and generally pollute their minds.

• Ethics and Morality. We are shocked by the steady stream of disclosures of the ethical and moral lapses of our business, political and religious leaders, while at the same time we tolerate hostile, anti-social and “in your face” behavior among our young people. Somehow, there’s a disconnect between the “anything goes” mentality that pervades our society and the behavior of many of the adults who are supposed to be in charge.

• Privacy. Americans treasure their right of privacy, yet for generations have passed laws that intrude into the lives of people in a wide range of areas including taxation, engaging in certain consensual sexual acts, and smoking, to name just a few.

• Gambling. Gambling is illegal or strictly regulated in various states and, while people bemoan the fact it can be addictive, many of those same governments operate and aggressively promote lotteries.

• Tolerance vs. Prejudice. We constantly preach tolerance, but experience far too many shocking incidents of intolerance and prejudice, abuse, brutality and murder. “Do as I say, not as I do,” is not just some trite adage. It has become the accepted standard in our society.

It’s little wonder that there are so many problems in America today when there is such contradictory, schizophrenic behavior in our society.

Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who has lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his own blog,

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