Osama bin Laden is dead. Once again we are cautioned not to yield to the dark temptations of Islamophobia, and once again, we won’t. We’re smarter than that because we know the truth about humanity.
“There’s good and bad in all kinds.” One priest saves lepers, another abuses altar boys; one Nazi runs the ovens, another hides Jews. And when we marvel at those contradictions we have a ready explanation.
There’s good and bad everywhere, in all races, nations, societies.
We can never bridge our differences in race or culture or nationality or faith, yet we all agree on that simple truth. And isn’t that a cause for hope in a fallen world?
We live in a magical time of jumbo jets, TV and Twitter. Nations are blurring, ethnicities are mixing, our globe has shrunk to an overheated marble, yet the world seems more fractured than ever.
So much divides us. What unites us?
Religion? It should. The maximum number of plausible Gods is one. Yet we’ve been waging wars for millennia over what to call him and whether he likes his picture painted.
But while religions can’t agree on God, they’re remarkably close on people. There is near universal agreement on what makes a good one.
Be kind to people, treat your neighbors well, be hospitable to strangers, love one another, live honestly, and a dozen other virtues seem to comprise some universal truth about humanity. And all societies agree on them.
It’s astonishing, really. Mankind has been speaking those words since the first philosopher carved cuneiform into clay. We must have an instinctive sense of goodness born into us.
We also agree on what makes a bad person: The grasping, the cheat, the bully, the liar. We just killed one of them but there are always more, because there’s good and bad in all kinds.
I’m going to take the liberty of crowning myself one of the good people and assume I’m speaking to other good people. We know who we are. We don’t like to hurt people. We try not to cheat, lie and steal and we’re ashamed of ourselves when life drives us to those ends. We believe in peace on earth and goodwill towards men.
And for ten thousand years we’ve let the bad people push us around and tell us what to do and to whom to do it. We’ve let them because they were bad enough to make us and we were too soft to stop them until they did terrible damage.
Bad people are very hard to ignore. You can’t avoid a bad person if he happens to be your boss at work. And that happens a lot, because bad people seem disproportionately to occupy corner offices. They know how to play the cold-hearted game of office politics.
That can be rough on you if you work with them. But bad people also know how to play the high-stakes game of real politics, and that’s rough on everybody.
Bad people hate, and they convince ordinary good people to hate the same things. Oh sure, there are always a few saints who rise above the evil that bad people do, and they usually die for it. We know about them posthumously from books about the Holocaust.
But those aren’t good people, they’re great people, and we can’t count on them because they don’t come along every day. But there are always plain old good people around, because there’s good and bad in all kinds.
This is call to arms for good people everywhere. We have to stop following the bad people. Without us, bad people have little power, they’re merely annoying. Our participation is a force multiplier for bad people; it takes us for them to go from bad to bin Laden.
Good people everywhere, I’m speaking to you. We need to go on strike against the bad people. Let’s tell the bullies and haters to leave us alone, because we don’t want to have to kill any more of them.
Let’s laugh at their conspiracies, reject their twisted theories and refuse to be provoked by their provocations. Let’s tell them we won’t play their deadly games anymore; let’s tell them it’s over.
Maybe we can give them an island where they can fight it out to their black hearts’ content.
But you know, it would apply even there, on the island of the damned. Some evil SOB would do something nice for some other evil SOB.
Because there’s good and bad in all kinds.