Choosing the Hardest Thing
by Richard Girard
“Why are you asking us to do the hardest thing?” ―Joseph Biden, (D-Delaware) to Air America Radio host Randi Rhodes in 2004
If—in the terms of action—the perfect is the enemy of the good, then the expedient is the enemy of the right.
The Democrats have once again chosen expediency over principle, by extending a supplemental appropriation for the Occupation of Iraq into September. The Democrats—particularly in the Senate—have acquiesced to the wants of the Republican White House so often, you have to wonder if they have been quietly told, “Do what we tell you to do, or we'll Wellstone you.”
This has to stop—now.
George W. Bush is a sociopathic bully, who will not hesitate to do anything to get his way. He has lied, cheated, and squandered any credibility or good will the rest of the world might have for the United States, in exchange for some fleeting advantages to himself and the American Military-Industrial Complex. Like all bullies, he will continue to threaten opponents and intimidate the public until someone tells him, “No!” and makes it stick.
Congress must put the fear of God (and prison) into Bush, Cheney, Rice, Gonzalez, and the rest of the crypto-fascist White House, with meaningful threats of impeachment and criminal prosecution. If they do not, we will wake up one morning to discover that Bush has (due to a Katrina level natural disaster, a September 11th level terrorist attack, or 1929 level economic disaster) thrown out the Constitution, using National Security Presidential Directive Number 51 as the basis for his action. If we permit that to happen, it may require an armed insurrection to throw Bush and his coterie out of office.
Americans shouldn't be surprised that the Congress did not say no to the Sociopath-in-Chief. The majority of human beings go through life as impervious and uncomprehending of their real effect on the world as a meteorite that strikes the Earth. Unfortunately, high political office has never ensured a commiserate degree of situational or historical awareness.
“Do The Right Thing” is the title of one of Spike Lee's best movies, and the rallying cry for all people with even a shred of integrity. One of the great tragedies that I have come to recognize in my lifetime, is that although society expects people to do the right thing, it rarely confirms accolades if they do. The depth of this tragedy lies in my observation that it is easier (in terms of effort) to do the wrong thing (or evil) than it is to do the right thing (or good); conversely, it is easier to do the right thing (or good), than it is to undo a wrong thing (or evil).
This is especially true when individuals and groups are driven to undertake an action (or set of actions) out of fear. Fear weighs upon the human psyche heavier than any other emotion. Human beings wish to be rid of their fear as quickly as possible, and we tend to ignore the consequences inherent in our precipitous reactions and ill-considered solutions to that fear.
Worse still, unscrupulous individuals and groups will take advantage of our fears, and encourage us into taking actions which will increase these unscrupulous individuals' or groups power or influence, inevitably to our own later regret. This fact is true whether you are describing Hitler's Germany after the Reichstag fire, the United States after September 11, 2001, or even a fictional galaxy “far, far away” in the Star Wars films.
I bring up Star Wars as an example for one reason only: the fall of Anikin Skywalker from grace to become Darth Vader—mirrored by the simultaneous descent of the democratic Galactic Republic into a fascist Empire—is symptomatic of the basic reaction to fear that we all experience. This six-part cinema epic of the ascent, fall, and redemption of Skywalker/Vader, has the advantage of being a well known story from popular culture, and does an exemplary job of demonstrating the ease with which you can do evil, and the near impossibility of undoing evil. It is not history, it is myth; but as Joseph Campbell made clear in his writings, myths tell us a higher truth about ourselves and our world than any history or philosophy.
So, you ask, if this moral wrong, if this so-called evil exists, then define it.
As Justice Potter Stewart said of pornography, I know it when I see it, but inevitably evil has one consistent component: it devalues living things—especially human beings, individually or collectively—in their relationship to the rest of the world.
This devaluation of life primarily takes two forms. The first is when living beings, especially humans, are devalued or demonized until they are objectified, their value reduced and narrowed until they are thought of solely for their quantifiable utility rather than the abstract or any other qualitative value they might possess. The second is when non-living things (e.g., monies, power, ideologies) are exalted in both their utilitarian and abstract value above the value of living things, especially human beings..