I think the November 13, 2015 attacks in Paris were despicable, heinous, barbarous, gruesome, and yes, even evil. I think ISIS is evil, too. My tweet on November 15 did not say anything to the contrary although all the world seemed to think so.
I’ve laid off this website and stayed out of public view since. I’ve done so mainly to shield my friends and fellow candidates from the fallout. The heat of criticism has dwindled. Now I feel I must elaborate on the sentiments I was trying to convey with the tweet.
First, let me say I’m a pacifist. I’ve been so since shortly after I entered the Air Force Academy in 1970. As I began to study war and live among those who waged war, I realized that war is a really, really stupid endeavor. Particularly in the modern era with weapons becoming ever more lethal and tools of diplomacy becoming ever more available violence must be avoided.
“Evil” is a terrible word for a government to toss around, especially a government that has stood on the premise that church and state should be separate. The most horrible things humans have done to each other have been done in the name of eradicating some group another group thought evil. Our founding fathers recognized the danger of a government dedicated to one belief system.
Here’s the text of the tweet:
ISIS isn’t necessarily evil. People doing what they think best for their community. Violence isn’t the answer, though.
I didn’t say ISIS isn’t evil. I said, “ISIS isn’t necessarily evil.” That qualifier was overlooked by millions of people who thought I was somehow attempting to excuse the Paris attacks of Nov 13. That wasn’t my intent at all. I was criticizing our leaders and candidates for using the term “evil” to describe any group. From the perspective of our government, as I read our constitution, a group isn’t necessarily evil if there is any group who think they are not.
The people who are joining ISIS aren’t doing so because they think ISIS is evil and they want to go and do evil things. They are going to build and defend a community of devout people based on a shared understanding of religious purity. A revolutionary army is the logical extension of community activism. Ergo, ISIS isn’t necessarily evil.
ISIS is more accurately called ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Levant is an historic term for Syria and parts of what are now several other countries in the region.
As I was editing the tweet down from what had started as a much longer statement, I couldn’t leave out the sentence about violence. To me, violence is NEVER the answer. That had to be part of the message.
The tweet was meant to be provocative. I had hoped it would provoke conversation about presidential candidates using the term “evil” to describe enemies of the country. I don’t want to claim credit, but I haven’t heard any candidates or government officials using the term since.
Describing an enemy as “evil” dehumanizes the enemy, a tactic that has been used for millennia to justify violence. It is easier to swallow the concept of killing an enemy who is less than human. To me it is still murder.
I must state at this point of the argument, that I am not a Christian. I am not a Muslim, either. Nor am I a Jew. Not sharing a concept of a deity does not stop me from thinking killing another person in any form is unacceptable. I do attend church. I join my fellow congregants in supplication for peace.
Many of the comments called me a “libtard”. I take that as a complement. It is a conflation of “liberal” (or “libertarian”) and “retard”, the vernacular for one whose mental development is incomplete.
I am a liberal. I am a bit of a libertarian, I think government should be as small as possible and have as little impact on our lives as possible. As a liberal, I think we must work together thoughtfully to peacefully co-inhabit this planet. We must progressively search for ways to interact successfully with all our neighbors in towns, cities, states, nations and the globe.
My mental development will never be complete. I find great joy in learning something new every day. I learned quite a lot from this incident. I hope you will take the opportunity to learn something from it as well.