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Explaining evil

Cal Thomas's picture

In the aftermath of the senseless wounding of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat of Arizona, and the murder of six others, including U.S. District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina Green, there will be many who will use this tragedy to advance their own political agendas.

Explanations will be sought and blame assigned. Necessary questions will be asked: Did the clerk at the Sportsman’s Warehouse in Tucson violate any laws in selling the Glock 19 9mm gun to the accused, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner? Loughner reportedly cleared an FBI background check. So why didn’t that check discover what one Arizona official called Loughner’s “mental issues” and should they have disqualified him from purchasing the weapon?

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is being criticized because she “targeted” some Democratic members of Congress for defeat in the November election, superimposing crosshairs on their districts on her SarahPAC website. Rep. Giffords was one of those “targeted.” At the time, Giffords criticized the display saying people need to be “responsible” for their actions. Left-wing bloggers blamed Palin for contributing to the poisoned political atmosphere, but that explanation is too easy.

Next week is the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. Less than three years later, left-wing Soviet sympathizer Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated Kennedy. Were liberals to blame for that horrific killing? Of course not.

The assassins of Presidents William McKinley (an unemployed anarchist) and James Garfield (a disgruntled man rejected for a diplomatic post) lived in an era free of talk radio and cable TV. Radio, TV and social media didn’t exist when actor John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer, shot and killed Abraham Lincoln. More gun laws would not have stopped Booth, or the others for whom laws against murder were not deterrents.

The best “explanation” for this horror came from Arizona Republican Senator John McCain. In a statement, McCain put the blame where it belongs, on “a wicked person who has no sense of justice or compassion.”

He added, “Whoever did this; whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race, and they deserve and will receive the contempt of all decent people and the strongest punishment of the law.”

That is moral clarity. It places blame where it should be, on the shooter. Many people listen to talk radio, or watch political debates on cable TV. They don’t then pick up a gun and attempt to assassinate public officials.

Pima County, Arizona Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, a Democrat, denounced what he said is the nation’s vitriolic political climate: “The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous.” He said Arizona had become “the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

Anyone familiar with political discourse in America knows it has been rough and tumble from the beginning. Long before modern media, newspapers condemned politicians they didn’t like, questioning their character and moral fiber. To end vibrant, even incendiary political rhetoric, would require the eradication of politics, itself. Other countries have such a system. They’re called dictatorships.

Evil exists and a few are possessed by it. C.S. Lewis said that evil isn’t an absolute; it needs good. It’s a parasite that rides on good.

G.K. Chesterton offered an explanation for evil we may not want to hear, because it places blame where we like it least: “Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.”

We tolerate, even promote, many things we once regarded as evil, wrong, or immoral. And then we seek “explanations” for an act that seems beyond comprehension. Remove societal restraints on some evils and one can expect the demons to be freed to conduct other evil acts.

The fault, as Shakespeare wrote, “lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.” Once tolerated, evil grows like the parasite alluded to by Lewis. It inevitably and predictably leads to other evils, like the tragedy in Tucson.

[Cal Thomas is America’s most widely syndicated op-ed columnist, appearing in more than 600 national newspapers.] ©2011 TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

Comments generally explained by religion or morals and their connotations.
Evil deeds does not mean that the person is always evil. Also, the brand of religion or type of morals has influence.

Is mental illness evil? Is the mentally ill person evil? It depends upon who is judging them mentally ill!

We release after a diagnosis a woman who drowns her kids in a bathtub or strapped into a car; and, we also release them when they shoot their preacher husband with a shotgun in the back while he lies still!
Yet, we incarcerate those with a mental IQ of zilch for life for robbery.

Evil is someone who is evil all of the time but very much in charge of themselves all of the time--Satan for instance.

Was there any evil involved by the millions of deaths and maiming in all of the world's wars?

Excusable, huh?

How many times have you heard when a wonderful person dies or gets killed by a nut: "it was his time to be with the Lord."
How can we therefore blame the killer?

Instead of waiting until after the memorial service, Sarah guaranteed the focus today would be on her by posting a whiny video to her Facebook page.

In true Palin form, she pronounced herself the greatest victim of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. ...And in keeping with her tradition of always being tasteful, she used the term "blood libel" to describe criticism of the way she helped whip up hatred against a member of Congress.

Expect to hear "blood libel" on the lips of the Usual Suspects here quite often in the near future.

Expect to hear a "squeeeeaaaal" from Krispy quite often in the near future.

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