My husband and I recently watched the PBS Frontline documentary entitled “Secrets, Politics and Torture.” The documentary was about one of the darkest part of American history in my lifetime. It was about the use of torture in the “war on terror”, what was at that time blandly called, “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
The documentary explored both sides of the issue. It discussed the value, such as it might have been, and the disaster of using torture to glean usable, actionable information from our enemies in order stop future attacks.
As I sat watching the program, my thoughts turned to many things, some political which I will attempt to avoid discussing now, to the general idea of doing harm and how all of us, whether we want to admit it or not, have the capacity to engage in evil.
Harm comes in many forms.
Evil is defined as wickedness, sin, wrong doing and even profound immorality. Evil acts are full of depravity.
Purposely harming others is corrupt. It is malevolent.
Evil does not have to be a grand gesture. You don’t have to fly commercial airplanes into skyscrapers to be evil. Evil can come to us in small every day ways. We act with evil when we fail to be tolerate of one another. We engage in the act of harming another when we yell at our spouse or our children. Our actions can be considered abusive when we cut someone off in traffic. We are all capable of acting in punishing ways.
This is a terrifying thought but it is unrealistic, perhaps even ignorant, to believe otherwise. And the thing about evil is that it only begets more evil. Evil grows by the maltreatment of others, no matter the form it comes in.
The good news is that we are capable of self control. We have the ability to make loving choices and when we fail, we have the capacity to apologize, to make it better, to fix our mistakes.
In order to overcome the evil inside us, we must first recognize it. We must face the darkness of our own faults. We must peek into the abyss and accept that it is there, deep inside us and then make a daily conscious decision to act otherwise, to rise above it, to be better.
If each of us did this, we could all make the world a safer, more trusting place. We could make the world a place of love instead of a place of uncertainty. We could make the world a tolerable place, full of acceptance instead of fear and loathing.