“Every vice has its excuse ready.”—Publilius Syrus
Twelve months and one presidential election ago, Americans were coming to terms with an uncertain new future — one in which states and their residents were either red or blue, other nations were either for us or against us, one was either faith-based or reality-based, and personal convictions were either dead-on right or utterly, horribly wrong.
You could be either social or secure, but not both; for war in Iraq or against freedom; either fighting gay marriage or encouraging the collapse of Western civilization into a smoking pile of amoral ashes. It was the dawn of a new era, we were told again and again — one in which some claimed a mandate for change in the tighter-than-tight election results and the righteous, God-fearing fervor of evangelical Christians was understood to have won the day. There was the United States of Canada and there was Jesusland.
A year later, things look a little bit different.
Where once there was either red or blue, there’s now, well, a lot of grey. In our annual year-end double issue, we’ve decided to cast aside (mostly) the rancorous partisan political knife fights of a year ago and instead celebrate the grey that exists in us all — the personal foibles, faults, weaknesses, and largely harmless fetishes that we call vices.
There are other names for the urge to turpitude, of course. What one person calls a sin another might call human nature (or, for that matter, a good time). But ultimately all vices are about things we know we probably shouldn’t do, but which we do anyway. And vice is as good a word as any — without being too good, naturally.
So as we close out 2005, let’s hear it for venality, iniquity, dissolution, degeneracy, and minor moral transgressions of every stripe. As someone who’s no doubt rotting in hell (or will be soon) once said, we’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. Here’s to vice, in all its flavors and myriad manifestations. May it never go out of style to be a little bit bad.