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Then why is he still alive?” – Under The Red Hood

Since the beginning of time, there have been bad people. And since the beginning of time, good people have had to decide what to do with bad people. And that’s where things get dicey.

In the most recent days, I’ve heard people talking about what we need to do with ISIS, but the ones that have stuck with me are the suggestions that we should just bomb them. Not only is this idea devoid of an understanding of how complex the situation is, it’s devoid of empathy, and here’s why.

ISIS is not the only place where this startling lack of empathy can creep up. It creeps up when people think that those on welfare are just lazy and should stop abusing the system. It’s leveraged when talking about how okay it is that many prisoners receive inadequate or harmful medical treatment. Or, you can check out how easy it was to shift the tide of empathy for unarmed 18 year old Michael Brown when it was found out that he had stolen cigars from a gas station.

Yeah, I get it. We feel that there must be justice. Some form of retribution. Some vengeance. But too often what people in search of vengeance do not stop to consider is what they will not do. After all, if we’re going to call ourselves the good guys and our enemies the bad ones, we should have a reason for that.

What is the distinction between them and us? What exactly is the difference between a member of Al-Qaeda being willing to blow up a plane in pursuit of an ideal he believes in, regardless of the collateral lives lost, and us being unconcerned with the amount of false convictions in our prison system? What is the difference between 9/11 and daily drone strikes?

What’s the difference between a damned killer and a righteous one?

Basically, in order to be a good person, there have to be some things that you are not willing to do, even when dealing with extreme evil. Because that’s the definition of a good person. People being evil doesn’t mean all bets are off on how we decide to treat them.

What’s the difference between a damned killer and a righteous one?

Monsters come in many forms, and you can’t tell me that you’re willing to indiscriminately bomb these countries (as we do), support waterboarding (as Evangelicals do), forced sodomy, rectally infused puree (Abu Ghraib), etc, AND you don’t want me to call you a monster. If you do not carefully construct your worldview to include things that you are not willing to do for justice, if you are truly willing to do anything to defeat ISIS, or to feel safe, you will end up doing despicable things that will corrode your heart.

Because we must be good. And as it turns out, being good is actually the hard thing to do.

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