I guess I've been hearing it for years now as the country has slid into knee-jerk relativism. Till now though, it's merely been an equivocating grandfather clock in the background, metronomic, at worst nettlesome. It was at the beginning of l'affaire Polanski, though, that I realized how much I've come to detest the word "but."Here's the thing. I have been known to use the "but" as well, whether to excuse or justify some action.
One liberal pundit or another (banality = interchangeability) was bleating on and on, and I actually heard the words "what Roman Polanski did was wrong but ..." and it hit me like an air horn in a Trappist monastery. With a simple wave of the conjunctive wand, we now believe that we can explain away absolutely anything!
If we don't have unanimity on the rape and sodomy of a 13-year old girl, well, we're never gonna have it, are we? If "but" appears as a fulcrum in a sentence about an occurrence this horrific, it signals a brokenness in the American spirit that even a card carrying, "eyebrow-raised-higher-than-Pelosi's" skeptic like me could never have imagined.
"But" appears to have become America's verbal Continental Divide. Rainwater falls down one side, drivel the other. Polanski is a monster and the evil he perpetrated on that child demands punishment. No "buts."
Miller is right though, we tend to rationalize all sorts of things. Seriously though, have we become so accustomed to situational ethics that we can excuse pretty much everything?