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Who Are We?

October 15, 2017

A lot of labels have been thrown around in the last few weeks. We’ve seen the worst and best of human behavior. Each event is a snapshot of the human spirit.  People see what they want to see, and then generalize from there. Let’s look at the larger picture. The overwhelming evidence is right before our eyes.


-Heroes come in all sizes. Unlikely heroes helped flood victims after hurricanes. Tens of thousands of ordinary people stood up and helped people they’d never met before.

-Thousands of neighbors helped neighbors after fires in California.

-An unarmed usher defended his congregation from an armed murderer.

-Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of heroes risked their lives as they put their bodies in the way of bullets to protect people from the murderer in Las Vegas.

That is the good side.

-We’ve also been called out as evil and corrupt. Again, talking about the mass murder in Las Vegas, we were told that all white men, and/or all NRA members, are mass murderers in waiting.

-We saw corrupt Hollywood executives exposed as sexual abusers.  There are now dozens of victims.  Weinstein is only the tip of the iceberg and there are more abusers hiding under the surface.

So which is it? Are we good or evil? The answer is an emphatic and obvious ‘yes’.  We are capable of all that and far more.

Our tremendous capacity turned neighbors into heroes when it rained on Texas and Florida. You can also remember a few months ago when terrorists used trucks as weapons in Europe. The truck wasn’t evil; the evil was behind the steering wheel. In contrast, we used trucks to haul boats and supplies to flood ravaged areas.

A young man who had his concealed carry permit used his capacity for violence to save lives in his church. He had the same capacity for violence as the murderer who attacked the church, but this young man used his strength to save lives rather than to take them. Evil doesn’t live in the holster.

Time after time, we see enormous benevolence and craven self-interests on display. We’ve heard politicians and celebrities say that guns should be confiscated, as if the evil that we do is embodied in our tools rather than our character. I wish virtue were that simple. We can wrap the appeal for disarmament in tearful emotion, but I’m not superstitious. We can’t achieve virtue by casting-out plastic demons.

We heard these celebrities confess their motivation in an unusual moment of honesty. “But we have to do something!” they said. We can complete the sentence for them. “I can’t stand this feeling of being helpless in the face of evil so we have to do something even if it is useless.” Our law books are filled with tens of thousands of gun regulations that don’t stop criminals. Will another useless law help?

We cling to superstitious solutions because they feel good. Passing a useless law restores our feeling of control. We’ve seen celebrities and politicians say we should pass a new law..a law they admit wouldn’t have stopped the Las Vegas murderer. Doing things that won’t work simply because they make you feel better is the very definition of superstition. We can’t endure the discomfort and face real solutions so we clutch at easy superstition.

So which is the right view of human nature? We saw human beings display enormous creativity..for good and for evil. We have millions of examples of virtue..and a dozen examples of vice.

We see human nature the way we want, even when the truth is in front of our nose. Only a few percent of us are dishonest, even in the worst parts of town. Though it is rare, evil never goes away, even in the best parts of town. There are simple black and white answers, and they are wrong.

That is the human condition. We are wonderful, but can be evil. We’d best learn to live with it and see both sides.


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4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 15, 2017 10:46 am

    Well-said, on alot of very deep issues. I think we need an encompassing language of “we” to counteract all of the “us” vs. “them” language I hear. I will never forget the first time I heard someone say “we” should just build a wall around Chicago and let “them” shoot it out. Well, as you allude to, despite the fact that the majority of criminal homicides happen in certain communities, the majority of people in those communities are victims (usually indirectly) of criminal violence not perpetrators of it. “They” are “us” – together we are “we.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Renov8 permalink
    October 15, 2017 12:05 pm

    Human character and spirit well defined.


  3. fsilber permalink
    October 17, 2017 2:56 am

    One thing that allows extremely bad behavior that goes far beyond the mere yielding to temptation is decline in believe that bad behavior can result in our burning in Hell for all eternity after death.

    Liked by 1 person


  1. Who Are We, Good or Bad?

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