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Facing Evil

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Bret Stephens earlier this week:

There is an upside-down quality to this president’s world view. His administration is now on better terms with Iran—whose Houthi proxies, with the slogan “God is great, death to America, death to Israel, damn the Jews, power to Islam,” just deposed Yemen’s legitimate president—than it is with Israel. He claims we are winning the war against Islamic State even as the group continues to extend its reach into Libya, Yemen and Nigeria.

He treats Republicans in the Senate as an enemy when it comes to the Iranian nuclear negotiations, while treating the Russian foreign ministry as a diplomatic partner. He favors the moral legitimacy of the United Nations Security Council to that of the U.S. Congress. He is facilitating Bashar Assad’s war on his own people by targeting ISIS so the Syrian dictator can train his fire on our ostensible allies in the Free Syrian Army.

He was prepared to embrace a Muslim Brother as president of Egypt but maintains an arm’s-length relationship with his popular pro-American successor. He has no problem keeping company with Al Sharpton and tagging an American police department as comprehensively racist but is nothing if not adamant that the words “Islamic” and “terrorism” must on no account ever be conjoined. The deeper that Russian forces advance into Ukraine, the more they violate cease-fires, the weaker the Kiev government becomes, the more insistent he is that his response to Russia is working.

Stephens goes on to discuss Obama’s “moral inversions.”  In other words evil is good, at least in the Obama worldview.  And unfortunately, a good portion of America agrees with him.  How in the name of all that is holy did we get here?

That question keeps ringing and ringing in my mind.  It started a couple of weeks ago when I watched an HBO documentary, “Night Will Fall.”  It is mostly the footage that was shot in the Nazi concentration camps immediately after they were liberated.  It is horrifying.  Everybody knows (except the complete crazies) there was a Holocaust; everybody sort of, kind of generically knows it was bad.  But watching that film, even though I had seen much of the footage before, is a view into pure man-made hell.  Again, how in the name of all that is holy, did human beings, ostensibly in Christian Europe, sink to that level?

Then a friend of mine, seemingly randomly, put this video on Facebook today:

and even though I had watched all of that live as it happened, it was like getting kicked in the gut.  My own mind had suppressed the  shock and horror of that September morning.  Suddenly I began to answer my question.  We do not want to look upon evil.  Doing so makes too many demands of us.

It starts with the simple emotional demands of having to look at such ugliness.  It is unpleasant and who wants to put themselves in an unpleasant situation.  But when we do look at it, the demands grow.

If we look at evil, we have to do something about it.  Once we truly face something that is evil we know it has to be destroyed and we know that we have to do whatever we can to aid in its destruction.  And that means we have to make some sacrifices.   Yes, some of us may have to sacrifice sons and brothers to military action.  We may have to sacrifice a bit of comfort in order to properly supply a military effort.  But battling evil often involves more than just military action, and the sacrifices can cut much deeper.

Looking directly at evil can be a bit like looking at a mirror.  For evil like flying planes into buildings to actually occur, people’s evil impulses have to be nursed, encouraged, and set loose to act.  We all have the impulses from time-to-time, but most of us have the strength of character to prevent those impulses from turning into action.  Self-control is a sacrifice, a major one.  And the more of it we exercise the more we come to see how broadly the evil impulses affect our lives.  It is fairly easy not to gas Jews, but it is much more difficult not to categorize the guy that wrote that oh-so-wrong blog post as a “moronic nincompoop.”   You see, the impulse to gas Jews is the same impulse as the one that labels the writer, after it has been massaged, nursed, encouraged and set loose.  Battling evil starts by battling and controlling our own baser nature, and that is doggone hard work.

So, if you want to be elected to the highest office in the land do you want to force people to look at evil?  Probably not, because they are not going to like it.  This is certainly a part of the antipathy that developed towards George W. Bush as things dragged on.  And this is certainly the reason that the Obama administration has an “upside-down quality.”  It’s just plain easier.

This used to be a nation that welcomed hard work and tried to improve itself.  We are certainly suffering through an administration that is not so inclined.  I would like to think we are still that nation and have simply been fooled into thinking we were in fact conquering evil by electing this president.  We are having to relearn that the strength of character necessary to look at evil is not a matter of identity, but a matter of genuine self-examination and control, regardless of identity (which in my case definitely involves divine assistance).

The next election will tell much about whether we are still that nation or whether we have really turned a corner.  But one thing is quite certain,  character matters in our candidates.  Will they have the character to be honest about the state of the world and to force us to look at it?  Such candidates can be assured of my support.  Here’s hoping they will have the nations.


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