The oddest thing happened to me last Monday.
I don’t count myself among the “blame America” crowd. You know, the people who think that America is evil, has no conscience or soul, and pretty much everything it does is wrong. See also: “the Great Satan.” This group is made up mostly of people who I like to haphazardly label “flaming liberals.”
I also don’t consider myself a supporter of Ron Paul, because I can’t decide if the Ralph Nadar of conservatism is crazy like a fox, or crazy like Dennis Kucinich. Literally everything he does could go either way, right down to him wearing a blue plaid tie to last week’s Republican debate, a strictly red tie affair. I like to carelessly paint all of Ron Paul’s supporters as “right wing sociopaths.”
But as I watched the debate last week, Ron Paul said one thing, just one thing that actually got him booed, and I haven’t been able to get out of my head since then, because it illustrates a growing compulsion in our culture.
Let Me Quote Osama Bin Laden
So here’s what I’ve been thinking about all week. Ron Paul said a lot of things that many of us would think are crazy, including me. He said that the U.S. should abandon its embassies in all foreign countries, for one thing. But then he said that the reason the U.S. was attacked on 9/11 was because it had military occupations in Middle Eastern countries.
And people booed. The statement smacked of anti-military, blame-America rhetoric that would be welcome in any Democratic debate, and that doesn’t fly with people who bleed red, white and blue..
And Paul actually looked perplexed, as if to say, “Don’t shoot the messenger!” After all, he didn’t just make up this answer. He was just quoting what Osama Bin Laden had told us was the reason we were attacked.
Good vs. Evil
It was strange. A candidate for President (though an unlikely one) was simply telling people what we were told was the reason we were attacked. And he was booed. Not that quoting Osama Bin Laden should get a standing ovation, but still…
I know why the audience booed. Because for ten years, we’ve built our version of why we were attacked. We like to think that we were attacked because we are a beacon of light, freedom, justice, righteousness, women’s rights, and baseball to the world. Islam is dark and evil and opposed to all things good and American, so naturally, evil Muslims attacked us because they couldn’t stand how good we are.
It’s a great set up, the classic tale of good verses evil. There’s no question who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. And the best part is, evil attacked for no other reason than because it’s evil, and the good guys are good. That’s what evil does, apparently.
My List of Things to Do Today: Be Evil
The problem is evil doesn’t usually sit around thinking it’s evil, and finding good guys to attack for no reason. Even evil has to have a motivation. Evil always justifies itself, whether it’s in a terrorist, or an evil thought in our own hearts. It doesn’t have to be a good reason. But no serial killer, however “insane,” was ever caught and asked why, and answered “Eh, no reason. I’m just evil.”
We only think that’s what evil does because we watched too many cheap cartoons when we were kids. Seriously, He-Man is now on Netflix, so my wife and I queued up the first couple of episodes…and were shocked at its epic crappiness. What struck me more than the awful animation, voice acting, storylines, and Man-At-Arms’ mustache was that it just started. No explanation of why Adam is a prince, or what Castle Greyskull is, or what secrets it holds, or why one day Adam held his sword aloft and said, “By the power of Grayskull!” or why he gains his power by stripping down to a loincloth, or who the hell Skeletor is and what is his motivation, much less, why he doesn’t have a face. There was no reason given for any of those characters to exist…except to sell toys.
And that’s how we think the world works. Whenever someone doesn’t like us, or attacks us, or our spouse chews us out, we think they don’t need a reason except that they don’t like how awesome we are at everything, and they’re just insane and evil. That kind of thinking works great at keeping our consciences delusionally clear.
Whatcha’ think? Does evil have to have a motivation, even if that means America did provide a reason for terrorists to attack us? Like I said, it doesn’t have to be a good reason? Do you do the same thing with the people you don’t get along with at work or at home or in church?