The “Kids Nowadays” theme goes back as far as any of us can remember. Old folks bemoaning the behaviors and attitudes of young people, with their crusty old words usually sprinkled with some form of “back in my day.”

The current version seems to lean toward our youth seemingly having no idea of right or wrong.

How could they? It’s not as if young people are seeing many shining examples of righteous behavior, especially with news available in every form of media.

I still remember when my favorite football team made a big free-agent signing a few years ago. I was disgusted.

He’d played on another team before getting kicked off after allegations of domestic violence. The evidence presented was damning, the victim’s photos heartbreaking. When he was on the other team, my fellow fans spoke of the player as little more than trash.

Suddenly, he was wearing “our” uniform, and the opinions switched gears.

“He can help us win some games.”

Two months before, he was a garbage human. Now, suddenly he’s going to be a big help? Welcome to the team.

What changed the fans’ minds? A uniform and logo.

So for a kid looking for a definition of right or wrong, the answer seems to be, “It depends on the team.”

Right or wrong also depends on one’s wealth and/or fame. There’s a long list of celebrities who have managed to get away with just about everything under the sun. They still have their supporters, and woe be unto anyone who criticizes their beloved stars.

Kid: Can I also get away with stuff like that? Us: Sure, kid, but not until you’re rich and famous.

Same goes for the political world. Lordy, what a mess. Yes, there are decent men and women serving their citizens, but not all of ’em subscribe to the same principles. Let a news story surface regarding criminal or immoral behavior from an elected official, and no matter how sleazy it gets, the accused will have supporters from his or her chosen party — with those citizens conveniently stashing their outrage until the same thing happens on the other side. Then they get all kinds of self-righteous.

There seems to be no bottom to it, either. Currently, there’s a state representative under investigation for “sex trafficking of a minor and taking a prostitute across state lines.” If true, it’s disgusting behavior for any human, let alone a person in a position of supposed leadership. He’s still got a job. Nearly anyone else outside his profession wouldn’t.

So many more. Folks can call what they do “misrepresenting the truth” or “alternative facts” or whatever. It’s just plain lying. “Diverting campaign funds for personal use” or “Misusing funds intended for charity?” Fancy ways of saying “stealing.”

The reaction? It depends on the team. “If he or she is on my side, it’s OK.”

Huh?

Other officials have rap sheets longer than the average juvenile delinquent, but the juvenile will face far more punishment than the “grownups.” There’s even a website containing a “Legislator Misconduct Database,” and the list is really, really long. How do we explain it to the youngsters?

Us: Yes, breaking laws and living a scummy life is wrong — unless you can get elected to something.

We’ve got others in various arenas who push hard to display the 10 Commandments, but they don’t seem inclined to follow many of them. I guess they think rules of human decency exist to instruct others on how to behave themselves. As long as they’re on a certain team, the rules don’t apply.

As the rich, famous and elected — the privileged, I guess — continue to slime their way through with impunity, the lingering effect is an overall lack of credibility. Once they and their followers criticize an opponent for bad behavior and then turn right around and accept it from a teammate, they have no say in any definition of wrongdoing, as far as I’m concerned.

Sliding one’s opinion from one side to another may summon such terminology as “flip-flopping” or “doing an about face,” but if we want to teach a kid something, call it what it is: Hypocrisy. We can’t demand consequences for one person’s actions if we’re not going to demand the same thing for another.

Us: No, kid, you can’t criticize him for being a liar, a thief or a pervert. He’s on our side.

Make it make sense to me. Please.

Maybe the worst effect of all is creating sanctuaries for the wrongdoers. One athlete accused of sexual assault was interviewed about the charges. His reply? “I’m just here to concentrate on the next game.” Translation: “I’m just gonna hide here where I’m welcome.”

And if a man or woman has a life of extramarital affairs, thievery or mistruth in mind, where else in the world would he or she feel as if those behaviors are normal outside of politics? Lately, it seems as if corruption has its own country club, and the line awaiting membership just keeps getting longer.

By no means am I a bastion of morality. I’ve got more flaws than I care to admit. But I hope and pray I never forget the importance of integrity or the mistake of excusing bad behavior in the name of team. Right is right, wrong is wrong — period. At least it should be, right? It’s what I wanted my kids to learn, and what I hope they’re teaching my grandkids.

Ideally, one’s moral compass should point in one direction — the right direction. The needle shouldn’t be swinging wildly according to our personal preferences.

Otherwise, we’re just going to keep complaining about confused kids while wondering about the source of confusion.

Us: Go ahead, kids. Sleaze your way through life.

Just make sure you’re on the right team.

Gary Stallard is a regular contributor to the Opinion page of The Lufkin Daily News. His email address is garylstallard@yahoo.com.