inessential by Brent Simmons

Good and evil

Well, that was a disappointing election result. But some of the reaction has been a bit over-the-top. It’s not actually armageddon. Buck up! There’s more work to do.

If I had to pin the loss on one thing, I’d say it was the continuing success of the culture war. It was God, gays, and guns—with particular emphasis this time on gays.

At a deeper level, though, it reminds me of something that irks me personally: many Democrats reserve the word “evil” for their Republican opponents. Republicans are not evil, by the way. Terrorists are evil.

All those voters who said that “moral values” were important might be more willing to vote for a party that isn’t afraid of the idea of good and evil. That’s where moral values start.

Now, I voted for Kerry for moral reasons as well as practical. Freedom and civil rights are moral issues. The differences between Kerry’s and Bush’s foreign and economic policies are, in many cases, moral differences.

(And I think that winning an election by scaring people with gays is immoral. It’s cynical, manipulative, pandering—and it’s highly effective.)

I was a teenager when Reagan called the Soviet Union the “evil empire.” Like everyone else living in what are now called blue states, I gasped and said, “He can’t say that!”

But I kept thinking about it. It stuck in my head. And I thought to myself: if a nation that murders and sends to the gulag millions of its own citizens, that controls so utterly the minds of its people, isn’t evil, what is?

You might say this is a religious point of view. For me, it wasn’t—I kept thinking of the old quote “man is the measure of all things.” And, by that humanist measure, the Soviet Union was an evil empire.

That didn’t make me a Republican, and it didn’t mean that I thought the people of Russia were evil people. (They were victims of evil.) I could still see shades of gray—and degrees of evil.

But, I remember to this day, the blue-state orthodoxy was wrong and Reagan was right.

My pitch to Democrats: let’s go back to the beginning, to the intellectual foundation. Let’s talk about good and evil. Let’s not be afraid to use those words.

The idea is to stand for something, a real morality, rather than use fear-disguised-as-morality as a wedge issue.