Sunday, May 09, 2004

I'm going to have to do some serious political blogging soon, since by not committing to vote for Bush in November I've managed to convince my dear family that I have no moral clarity. I'm kind of tired right now, though, so instead of getting into specific political issues immediately, here are a few thoughts on moral clarity.

I do recognize the existence of evil. This is not a philosophical statement. It is a statement about the way I approach the world. Deliberately crashing passenger planes into buildings filled with innocents is evil. Blowing up buses and trains full of civilians is evil. This is clear to me. What isn't clear to me is that we can so easily identify who is evil and use that as our sole criterion for determining policy.

I continue to believe that the United States and Israel are, as societies, morally superior than the Islamist regimes that sponsor the murder of our citizens. Far superior, even. I don't, however, think that we can take our moral superiority for granted.

Have you seen the pictures from Abu Ghraib? You can say, "Saddam was worse." But, true or not, that is hardly the point. If you look through this overview of the Stanford Prison Experiment (thanks again, Iris), you can see how easily ordinary people can become perpetrators of evil. It's really chilling.

Life is full of complexities. You can say that Jewish lives are more important to you than Arab lives, or that foreign policy is more important than domestic policy, or that national security is more important than civil rights. It feels good to know what your priorities are, to think that you've got it all figured out. But things are rarely that simple. I think, if there's any way not to sacrifice one important value for the sake of another, we should by all means pursue that course. At the very least, let's not give up so quickly.

I know. I'm a relativist. I'm a self-hating Jew. I've sold my soul to liberal academia. Maybe I'm simply young and foolish. One day I'll grow up and see the light. For now, though, this is the way I think.

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