“Sollemnes, You Screw Well!”

That's just one of Cord Jefferson's favorite pieces of graffiti from the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. He uses the graffiti to argue that claims of America's moral decline are greatly exaggerated:

The professional right has made a big business out of pretending that TV and the rise of gay culture and rap music and dozens of other things have contributed to the fall of a once greatly moral nation, all the while seeming to forget that Thomas Jefferson is known to have taken sexual advantage of his slaves and Benjamin Franklin is believed by some to have been part of a drunken orgy club. It may make you feel nice to pretend that the societies that gave rise to the modern world were ones of pure honor and decency, but that’s not reality. The world isn’t on a moral decline, because there was never a time when the world was particularly morally superior. If we can glean anything from the Pompeiian graffiti, it’s that even citizens of history’s most immaculate and important civilizations liked their sex and poop jokes.

Update from a reader: "Ah, well, we do know what happened to Pompeii, don't we?"