An exercise in nuance without going extreme about it
The above headline is a quote from Martin Luther King junior.
It clearly says something else than the comment by US President Trump that equated marching White supremacists and Nazis, and protesting anti-Nazi activists: “There are very fine people on both sides.”
But how can we understand King’s statement when we look at the really worst (Hitler, Pol Pot)? Do we really need to search for any good in them? And even when we find some, does it have any relevance?
I would make a difference between an unrepented mass murderer who wants to be admired and someone who genuinely wants to better his life no matter what anyone thinks of him. Even after the worst things, things change for me when someone admits, regrets, is willing to pay for his crimes, and dedicates his life to educating everyone to fight (in themselves, others, and society) crimes like his. However …
Don’t hold your breath. the story of Pharaoh shows that there is a point of no return where it becomes exceedingly hard to turn one’s life around. Even when he finally gave up on his evil stance, within days, he regretted it and reverted to his previous display of hatred.
However, people tend to depict (or see) their simple political opponents as the worst of the worst, all bad, while they are not mass murderers. Labeling anyone as if Hitler or Pol Pot not only insults them but also normalizes and trivializes these symbols of wickedness and their crimes.
So, disagree all you want but see and admit that almost all people are neither complete saints nor complete devils. Feel free to reject the bad but also mention the good.
I oppose vehemently the racial hatred and general harshness by Rabbi Meir Kahane but he did attempt to show US Jews that they needed to regain some pride and backbone.
I disagree passionately with the naivety and false equivalence by Israel’s loony left but they’re right when rejecting bitterness or hopeless.
But everything that US President Trump ever said was to deceive and confuse. The breath he exhaled was already a lie. Nothing positive about him can redeem him. Although it’s worthwhile to remember that he wasn’t the problem. The hatred and greed his used are the problems.
To paint a black-and-white picture helps with clarity. Yet, let’s not forget that it’s an artifact that doesn’t properly reflect all of reality.
And, not only is there bad in the best and good in the worst. Wicked people can turn out saints, and the reverse. About others, Reb Shlomo Carlebach used to say: You never know. You may be pleasantly surprised. And the opposite is true too. Our Sages warn us: Don’t believe in yourself until your last day. Anyone: always watch out for making a very bad move.