Yet this is a term with which many American liberals are highly uncomfortable. And one of the objections they raise is that thinking in terms of evil too easily leads to demonization of other people.
It is for that reason that I always talk not about evil people but in terms of evil forces and patterns. [See The Concept of Evil at opednews.com/articles/opedne_andrew_b_051114_the_concept_of_evil.htm .] Thats one reason, anyway. Another is that --because I see evil as working through peoples brokenness and woundednessI believe that compassion is always called for in how we regard people, even the worst. Calling people evil carries the danger that we will see them solely in terms of their defects.
The other day, a couple of experiences coming together in a marvelous synchronicitybrought all this home to me.
In the early afternoon, I got an email from a man who had read an article of mine in which I offered a solution to the puzzle: How is it that many remarkably decent people can support leaders who are remarkable precisely for their lack of such decency? [See www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=43 .]
In the article, I discuss a friend of mine whom I describe as being as good a specimen of the upright man as Ive met, a fine father and husband, active in charitable works, impeccably honest and reliable in his business dealings. He also has twice voted for this Bushite regime, which I believe is far and away the most evil in American history.
The man who emailed me a response to this article is a man who, like me, is devoting his time to battling the Bushite regime. He disseminate those articles he feels best expose our evil rulers for what they are. But that article of mine was not to enjoy the blessing of such dissemination.
I don't buy the premise here, he wrote. There is nothing positive I can say about your friend. Anybody who supports Bush is amoral at best.
When I received this message, I had little time to respond. I was about to host the meeting of my Movie Group about a dozen people who gather monthly to watch together some film of substance and then discuss it afterwards over a pot-luck dinner. So I responded with brevity: It should not be impossible, I replied, to say something positive about someone who is a caring father, a devoted husband, a businessman with great integrity, etc. Peoples shortcomings and defects do not wholly obliterate everything else about them.
Then it was time to greet my guests.
Movie Group Gathering
Our film for this months gathering was Crash, the 2004 film directed by Paul Haggis. I didnt know much about the film, but it had been highly recommended by several people.
The film, which takes place in contemporary Los Angeles, is grueling to watch.
One particularly harrowing scene takes place early in the movie. A veteran white policeman whos feeling frustrated for reasons weve just seen-- pulls over a black couple for altogether bogus reasons, just to hassle them. In its extremely intense, deeply creepy, and viscerally infuriating culminating moment, this cop virtually sexually molests the woman, in front of her husband, all in the guise of conducting a police search.