A few weeks ago a young feller was recalling an interweb exchange he had, in which he floored someone with a story that was meant to provide an airtight case for moral ambiguity. I don’t really remember the details of the story, but it was something to do with a man with cancer (or who had a kid with cancer?) deciding to rob a bank because he would either 1) get the money or 2) be killed and his kid would get his life insurance money. Something like that. The young feller told me, victory shining in his eyes, “So who’s wrong- the man, or the police officers who shot him?”
I can’t stand stories like this. They’re meant to guilt you out of condemning the bad action. “Wow,” we’re supposed to exclaim, “I never considered that people who do bad things may have a personal history that made them think they had no choice in the matter! Or that they could do bad for good reasons!” The Joaquin Phoenix Joker movie taps into this too. The movie gives you the context to the Joker’s background, which is so disturbing and sad that you almost cheer for him as he *SPOILER* murders all those meanies who bullied him.
But the thing is – you can understand the reasons behind someone’s evil actions.. or feel sorry for them… or see how the people they are murdering or stealing from or otherwise victimizing are also evil themselves… but that still doesn’t make their actions good or right.* Violence is violence, evil is evil, bad is bad. Other violence, other evil, and other bad doesn’t necessarily cancel it out. Even if you feel sympathetic towards them.
In the same vein – I wrote a blog post a while back begging women to not post public pictures of their bosoms while breastfeeding. I provided multiple excellent examples to demonstrate my point. Some of those examples were a little crude. They weren’t crude for crude’s sake- I used them to demonstrate points like “privacy doesn’t equal shame.” A few of my readers expressed dismay and disgust that I made those comparisons, saying things like, “Making that comparison is just.. ew.” Like a disgust reaction from them was enough to negate my entire argument. Poppycock! I’m not trying to be a jerk, seriously. But just because a comparison is upsetting, gross, weird, or triggering doesn’t mean the comparison doesn’t hold true.
The point is, my fellas** and fellos, that sometimes what is right and true is upsetting, and sometimes what is wrong won’t be upsetting. I don’t like many truths, like Kesha removing the ‘$’ from her name. I’m not super bothered by other wrongs, like when a woman murders her cheating husband. Our degree of tum tum hurt, upsettedness, or anger is not an argument against.. anything. Our tummies are not our Truthometer. Just because some jerk blogger is using intentionally provocative examples to drive their point home does not mean they’re wrong.
— EDITORIAL NOTES —
*I’m talking on the level of personal morality not a nation or political system. I think the United States taking out Osama Bin Laden was justifiable and right.
**I just realized what a feminine sounding word “fellas” is, even though it traditionally refers to menfolk. From now on, I demand that men be “fellos” and women be “fellas” for the sake of continuity and parallelism in the English language!