Sunday, June 6, 2010

Left, Right, Good, Evil, and Liberty

Recently, conservative Dennis Prager wrote this:

"A defining characteristic of the Left is its inability to identify––and therefore confront––evil..."

Without undue rancor, I am beginning to agree. While I happen to be a person who sees a lot of gray area in life (sometimes I even live there), I also see black and white as the prevailing colors of most moral issues we face. Right is right; wrong is wrong, and mitigating factors are seldom able to change that essential rightness or wrongness. They simply increase our understanding and, perhaps, compassion for those who cross the line to walk on the dark side. It's important to remember, in our empathy, that there actually IS a line...and that taking into account the underlying motives and/or circumstances of those who take the low road should not include redefining what a low road is...or where it must inevitably take you.

The particular liberal mindset that excuses or normalizes bad behavior, then tries to justify those who exhibit it through rationalization or minimization, reminds me of today's parents who seem to be more comfortable changing the standards than upholding them. In far too many cases, reasonable standards of behavior have been abandoned in favor of what is touted as personal freedom, independence, and the right to self-expression. Yet believing that any of these is enhanced by lack of parental structure and/or expectation is faulty thinking. I was once in a group therapy session where parents of drug-addicted teens were counseled to set and consistently enforce family rules and limits. Why? Because having parameters they are taught to respect and live up to makes children feel safe and loved. It increases feelings of self esteem and establishes a sound core from which to act upon the world in positive ways. (A side note: Imagine my surprise when nearly every parent there asked for suggestions of what "standards" they might consider adopting. The problem wasn't even that they were afraid to impose their personal mores on their offspring; it was that they hadn't really espoused any for themselves.) A rather sad situation.

Overtly permissive parents will often try to explain away their children's bad behavior by pointing out a supposed inability to exercise obedience due to youth (lack of adequate intelligence or skills to comprehend) or special circumstances. In doing so, they underestimate their offspring...even patronize them. They fail to recognize (and utilize) the facility and potential with which children are born, and their lack of confidence and expectation undermines development. Rather than fostering the qualities of personal freedom, independence and self-expression they value, these parents are stunting the very growth and self-worth that breed them.

Okay, back to my analogy. A number of liberals, like overly permissive parents, enable bad behavior by getting overly involved in trying to explain and understand it. Then, somehow, the explanation (if there even is one) becomes not just a justification for the behavior but a revision of or redemption from it. The Soviet Union was more misguided than evil; the guys who beat up Rodney King had their reasons, and Hugo Chavez isn't such a bad guy if you put the whole thing in context. Even Islamic terrorists aren't so dreadful if we understand the circumstances that created them.

Let's face it. Pity, sympathy, or empathy for the actor does not transform the act. (Holding him accountable, however, can transform the actor.) Sometimes, most times, right is just that: right––and wrong is plain, old wrong. What's more, as Abraham Lincoln said, "No one has the right to choose to do what is wrong." Not even if something wrong was done to him (or her, as the case may be).

Prager concluded his remarks with this final one: "When, one day, the Left exits from history's stage, its epitaph will read: 'Those who do not understand evil will not understand good.'" Once again, I have to agree, and that's what worries me now. Good solutions to our problems cannot be created in a vacuum, and the ability to hold to what is and has always been good about our country is inseparably connected with being able to determine what is and always has been evil. Ours is not to excuse that evil, not to explain it, but just to recognize that it exists. (And thereby avoid, condemn, and thwart it.)

Wherever and whenever possible.


KC Mom said...

You have done a great job of expressing something that I've been feeling a lot of lately.
Because I've been dealing with a wayward child, I have had to really look at the line between black and white. I have to know which side I am on so that I can teach my child the right and wrong. That line is becoming much clearer.
I see so many parents of my children's friends who don't offer any guidance on this. They are almost afraid to ask their child to live up to any standard. It is frightening. I'm appalled at what I see.
Thanks for your insight.
My blogger has been down for almost 24 hours now and I was beginning to panic that I wouldn't be able to check in today!

Caroline of Salsa Pie said...

Sue, I liked this post every much. I am not really a political person, but I totally agree with what you say about what is right and what is wrong.
With regards to raising children, I am hoping that our combination of love, faith and discipline will help prepare them for this world...

Great post. Well put.

p.s. I love the Abraham Lincoln quote.

Jess said...

I love how you put it- you really hit it spot on. I have 2 step-brothers who have never had any expectations to live up to and it's just like you say, they've gone nowhere. Excuses were made, consequences evaded and neither is productive or happy.

karen said...

Well said. The older I get, the clearer the line between right and wrong becomes. I think when I was younger I was more concerned with not hurting anyone's feelings. Perhaps a lot of well meaning people think the same way. But you're right - we have to get back to basics and recognize and, more importantly, IDENTIFY evil when we see it. How else will we avoid it? Thanks for making me think a little bit today.

Darlene said...

It saddens me when I see so many children today who are obviously suffering from what I can only call wishy washy parental control.

Obviously these kids could benefit a great deal by having parents set up better standards at home as to what is right and what is wrong, and make hard fast rules about how their children are expected to conform to such standards.

This is a great post because not only does it reach out to parents but to all people. We do need to be more aware of seeing where evil does lie. It seems to be getting harder for people to recognize that evil exists all around us and we need to be more aware how we must deal with that fact.

A 2 Z said...

Hi Sue,

Thanks for the visit! Interesting post! As a teacher I see all kinds of children. Some are respectful and others are almost like animals. I think that some parents feel that its wrong to discipline their children. That in itself is a form of child abuse. These children really have a rough time making friends and getting good grades. In the long run they keep getting into trouble because they have not been properly socialized and their self-esteem suffer. There is a way of teaching a child right from wrong with loving discipline. Now who determines what makes something right or wrong? That's a difficult issue. So many factors come into play. I lived overseas where sometimes it was really difficult to adjust because values were so different. I had to wrap my brain around different social mores that were so contrary to mine. After a while I became confused because you begin to adapt to a different culture and it made me question my own beliefs. I have not visited the whole world but what I can say is that the US and Canada have the best human rights and best democracy in the world. Its the only place I feel truly happy being a woman.

My name is PJ. said...

You're so articulate and thoughtful in your postings, Sue.

I agree with the sweeping generalization concerning parenting and children's behavior today, as opposed to when we grew up. I agree in capital letters.

Let's not forget piece about right wing.....because they have fanatical, narrow-minded practices that are differently, yet equally damaging.

Extremes of any kind are unhealthy, I think.

Sue said...

I fully agree with you on this point, PJ. The extreme right wing people can be every bit as troublesome and even potentially dangerous as the left. I should have made that point, but since the quote happened to be about the left, that's what I was responding to here.

Having said that, I'm sorry I missed the opportunity to mention that the extremists on the right are often hyper-aware of "evil" without noticing that they are moving in that direction themselves. (ex. the abortion clinic bombers).

You are entirely correct. Extremists of any kind are unhealthy. And thanks for adding your insight to the discussion.


Mormon Women: Who We Are said...


Wow. I love this.

If you say there is no law, you essentially say that nothing good can exist, a la 2 Ne. 2.

Michelle said...

And sorry for the comment tied to the site -- I was too lazy to switch out of that gmail account. ;)

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