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“Fine People On Both Sides”

May 6, 2019

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In the coming months of the election season outrage will be cheapened by volume. There will be endless accusations and retorts, assaults and defenses, because some humans in America want power. I do believe that wanting control over others is a dangerous desire.

Joe Biden is even older than me. He is running for President with about 247 other people, and he based his descision on a two year old statement by President Trump that evil and the good were two sides of the same human coin as evidenced in the tragic reality of Charlottesville

We must call out evil. Hitler, or the latest mass murderer, or simply the senseless violation of any innocent cannot be rationalized let alone defended. But to avoid evil I think we have to understand it. Slavery is evil. There is no fudging the degradation of our common humanity when some of us own others. In any way.

Thomas Jefferson had slaves. Sally Hemings was owned by him, and possibly victimized to the point of bearing 6 children by him, 4 living to adulthood. Yet Annette Gordon-Reed in American Heritage Magazinehttps://www.americanheritage.com/did-sally-hemings-and-thomas-jefferson-love-each-other says it was more complicated than victimization. Jefferson arranged 40 years of her presence in his life, and Sally Hemings is said to have told his four children by her that Jefferson “loved her dearly”, and ultimately freed everyone involved. But owned hundreds of other slaves.

Attacking those who try to mitigate evil with “moral equivalence” is a righteous rejection of anyone who uses one evil to defend another. That assumes that being equal in guilt mitigates, even vitiates, it. America helped stop the reality of concentration camps that were created to murder millions of the innocent and defenseless in World War Two, but also set up Internment Camps, benign prisons, for another group who were perceived to threaten America – Americans who happened to have come from Japan.

Were those who made Internment Camps as evil as those who made Concentration Camps? I do not think so: both are simply fully, wrong, and should not have happened. But one murdered millions, the other did not.

Easy for me to say. I am centuries away from so many bad acts – realities made clear in their evil truth by years of time. But I can think, even do, things I know are wrong every day. Are they evil? I do not think so. But I have been as jocularly insensitive as any overprivileged white male can be, and hurt people. Am I evil? In whose eyes?

The more I hear the 247 people running for president assert that they want to “serve” the more I know that first and foremost they are serving themselves, not others. Each human beating his or her breast, or being beaten on, or just watching is no different in any way from each other, or me, or you. Our judgment of them is laughable. All I can do us look beyond the noise to to what God knows, that I cannot.

Do I serve God when I accept no money designing for those who cannot afford my services as an architect? I guess, maybe, but that is not why I do it. I do it because I cannot do anything else. No nobility here. Just doing what somehow I was made to do. I hope it works out. But judgment is not mine, especially over myself.

I wonder, surprisingly often, whether any of us a higher understanding of who we are beyond the prison of our self-perception. I know I do not understand our own children enough to direct or judge them beyond hope and help. There is precious little ability to see beyond our human eyes. When hope becomes faith there is a spiritual direction beyond each of our limited vantages…so we balance and judge.

That is not “moral equivalence”. The understanding of humans is not their vindication or excuse. Understanding, especially by those trying to understand, is the challenge of living into what we do not understand – I think having faith beyond understanding is the triumph of belief over fear. Are there “Fine people on both sides” of any issue? Were all Nazi’s evil? Is President Trump evil?

Good question…

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