Look in the mirror. Want to see what a Jew looks like. Look in the mirror. Want to see what the Buddha looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what a racist looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what an abolitionist looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what a Fundamentalist Christian looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what an atheist looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what a Communist looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what a murderer looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what a saint looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what a Patriot looks like? Look in the mirror. Want to see what a Red Coat looks like. Look in the mirror.
Strip away color and sex, and the list is infinite, both bad and good.
Why do I bring this up? Reading this article on Daily Kos. It says:
Extremists do not represent the religions, organizations, and non-believers they claim. They represent hate – hate in it’s purest form. They are the worst of the worst in human spirit. If there is a Hell, it’s from whence they came, and to where they will return.
I do not think they represent hate, nor love, nor a religion, nor a race, nor a political party, nor a group, nor a club, nor a team, nor anything in particular.
What they do represent is people. What they represent is you and me.
It is a mistake to try to bundle the “bad people” under some label, some characteristic, some defining factor. That is of course is human in itself, but it is part of the problem. We want to bundle people like this so we can make sure we can exclude ourselves.
They are the bad ones. Not us, not me.
That’s wrong. We are all capable of great evil. We are all capable of being Nazis, Confederates, rapists, murderers, torturers, terrorists, bullies, whatever. We are not by some magic different than those people. Our race, our color, our religion (or lack thereof), our politics – none of that protects us from doing evil. From being assholes.
I pride myself in thinking that I am not a racist, that I wouldn’t do the horrible things that our CIA did to so-called terrorists (and perhaps real terrorists). I entertain the fantasy that if I saw someone being brutalized, I would intervene. That if I saw a bully, I would not join in the fun.
And I probably wouldn’t.
However I have no illusion that had I grown up in a different time, a different place, with parents with different attitudes, or made different friends, or maybe even read the wrong books, or saw the wrong movies – maybe I would be the people I hate.
I have no doubt, had I been born in Germany with perhaps a father who admired Adolf Hitler and a culture that railed against Jews at every opportunity that I too might have become a Nazi. I would certainly hope not, but I’d be a fool to think I couldn’t.
The point is, we all have the capacity for evil, as we also do for good.
And there is the crux of the problem – we think we are doing good, when it is evil. After all the Nazis, as evil as we know they were, did not think they were being evil. They did not pray to the “great god Satan”, nor did they giggle to themselves on how horrible they were being, nor did they cackle with “bru-ha-ha-ha” when no one was listening.
They thought themselves doing good. Just as the Communists who sent their brethren to the camps. Just as the Southerners who fought to preserve slavery.
No one who is doing evil believes they are doing evil. We all believe, or find a way to convince ourselves, that we are the “good guys” and they are the “bad guys”. The Muslim Fundamentalists slaughtering children, they don’t think they are doing evil. They think they are doing God’s will. As do the drone pilots who’s missiles kill innocents everyday (and the politicians who order it, and the public that supports it).
So stop propping yourself by comparison. Stop patting yourself on the back for your luck.
You really don’t want to be evil? Don’t forget that like the rest of us, you are evil.
To quote Walt Kelly:
Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly. It is just unfortunate that in the clumsy hands of a cartoonist all traits become ridiculous, leading to a certain amount of self-conscious expostulation and the desire to join battle.
There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.
Or Simon Wiesenthal:
The were the same people who lovingly kissed their children goodbye in the morning and then a few hours later were gassing or shooting Jews.
because only the person who has grasped it knows that evil lies dormant in most people and can break out at almost any time. Let no man say that such a ghastly dictatorship is no longer possible today. That is the true lesson from the horror of National Socialism: we must fight against it constantly, against evil, so that it does not emerge again.
(more on that topic here).