The Boston Bombing and the Nature of Evil
In the aftermath of the murderous terrorist attacks on the Boston Marathon this week, commentators across the landscape have rightly praised the heroic first responders and police, the civilians who ran to help and the civilians who ran to give blood. Many have also suggested that the presence of these heroes shows that America will never give in to evil, that the presence of good in our world outweighs the presence of evil.
Nothing could be more wrongheaded.
Everyday good will generally outweighs everyday evil. Finding people to respond with goodness to magnificent tragedies is not difficult — most people will, if faced with the carnage of a young child maimed by a bomb, try to help regardless of circumstance. Finding people willing to maim children is a far more difficult task than finding people willing to give blood for that same child.
But unique evil — evil vast in scope and ambition — outweighs everyday good. Unique evil requires good people to pay attention only to everyday good. The triumph of unique evil does not mean that good people do nothing — it means they focus on fighting everyday battles. No matter how many ladles of soup we serve to the homeless, no matter how much we care about our children, no matter how many times we help an old lady across the street, unique evil will prosper.
Unique evil must be fought with unique good, not everyday good. Unique good is a worldview, not only a set of everyday actions. It is understanding of unique evil — its ambitions, its methodologies. Unique good requires an alternative moral code that faces unique evil head-on and destroys it.
This is the disconnect between left and right in the war on terrorism. The left believes that unique evil is driven by lack of everyday good. If only we gave more income to the impoverished or showed more kindliness toward people who disagree with us politically or recycled, the unique evil of terrorism would dissipate. The Golden Rule, in the leftist view, solves the problem of evil.
Except that it does not. Evil societies are full of good people. Evil ideologies are held in esteem by people who do acts of everyday good routinely. Everyday good may solve the problem of everyday evil — we can train Goofus to be Gallant. But everyday good does nothing for the problem of the power-hungry unique evil bent on hijacking institutions to forward its agenda — the world's worst people can be unfailingly polite in their everyday lives. They can have wives, mothers and dogs.
It is comforting to think that all we must do to defeat unique evil is to cling to the things we do every day. But it is false. Terrorists do not hate us because we help those in need. They think they are helping those in need. Terrorists hate us because they want to change the social framework in which we live. To stop them, we must not only fight ideologically for our own social framework, we must work to triumph over their evil social framework.
America is a heroic country. We are a country of everyday heroes. But we are a nation of unique good. And that is why, if we hold true to our unique ideals and fight for their triumph, we will indeed win.