Sunday, September 6, 2009

Hard Choices

I know I haven't written anything for a while; as I said to a friend lately, "Life is what happens while you were making other plans." But some things have been nagging at me for several months, and maybe I can get something down here.

There's been a lot of noise the past few months over the "enhanced interrogation" methods used on some of the captured terrorists by our government. I have to admit that a lot of the outrage on one side strikes me as politically motivated, because so many of these people have been putting down traditional morality for many years, and mocking anyone who seems to be associated with it. (I may have something more to say about this in another post, if I can get it written.) Yet suddenly they are up in arms over this misbehavior! They have excused all kinds of moral lapses among their friends and supporters, but let their political opponents commit a sin, and they are enraged over it.

I've seen some others who are conservatives themselves and are outraged that their leaders approved these actions. And many conservatives are saying essentially, "hey, it worked--therefore it was justified!" (Apparently many religious conservatives fall into this group, too.)

It seems to me that most people want to paint their own side as bright white and their opponents as totally black. The trouble is, life doesn't always work out that way. As a Christian, I believe we are all fallen people, living in a fallen, damaged world. Even the best of us fail at times, and at the other end of the spectrum there are people who are almost completely evil, doing good about as often as the best do wrong. Most of us land somewhere between. And one result of this situation is that sometimes things are not "black and white" with a clear choice. Sometimes you look at the available options and none is completely white, all are darker or lighter shades of gray. The principle involved is called "the lesser of two evils." I would even say sometimes it may be three or four evils, or more. All you can do is try for the one that is the least black, as far as you can tell. I have had a few times in my life that I had to make that sort of decision, on a small scale--nothing of any national importance or significance--and I am glad that I did not have to make any such choices involving life or death for other people. I am very glad I was not in a position in government having to make the choices about interrogating prisoners.

I do not agree with those who call the "enhanced interrogation" a good thing; I think it is an ugly thing. But I can see that it may have been necessary, or seemed necessary at the time. That still does not make it a good thing, and I think we need to recognize this. On the other side, those who did not have to make such decisions themselves need to show a little more humility and not be so self-righteous in condemning others. If they were in the same position with the same responsibilities, they might make the same choice. And if there really are some in elected office who did know about the matter, kept quiet until the uproar started, and then joined the chorus of outrage: these may be the worst of all.