Champion, judging from your silence, I suspect that I have not adequately answered your questions. And, by the way, I address 2-year-old mental equivalents all the time, as I run a home for DD children and one of my kids has severe autism and mental retardation. (I was not hinting at my opinion of Christians.) Over the years, a couple of kids I’ve admitted have had truly evil behaviors. Of course, such an assessment and word choice has never occurred to me outside of this little analysis. Should I have called them “evil” to their faces, or referred to them in my reports to social workers as being evil? Obviously not. I realize that you wouldn’t either. However, I might be a bit freer with words such as “good” and “bad” when speaking to them than I otherwise might. And that was what I meant in my above post.
Most judges and DAs avoid using the word “evil” in their descriptions of the miscreants they’ve been handed. It would accomplish nothing, since practically no person would actually think of himself as being evil even if someone in authority calls him evil. And it could backfire, as it might even piss him off and cause him to react poorly to such a characterization. (A close friend of mine is a DA, and I’ve discussed this issue with him.)
So we have children who set fires and torture small animals who are not called evil, for very good reasons. Next we have adult criminals who do similar things, plus murder, rape, etc. Calling them evil is potentially counterproductive. Are you suggesting that when the evildoer operates thousands of miles away, suddenly things change? Just because Saddam was many times more destructive than my friend’s county criminals, he still operates mentally as a human being, and could react in ways very much counter to what an accusing president might have in mind.
Or is the president trying to accomplish a worldwide shift of opinion? Many people say that Reagan’s use of the word “evil” resulted in the Berlin Wall coming down. I’ve never heard such crap. Real-world cause-effect cannot just be thrown together based on spiritual belief systems.
Last February, The New York Times printed an article describing work being done by neuro researchers attempting to quantify evil in the brain. This is most unfortunate, as I’ve heard (by way of other articles in the Times, and Harpers) that Harvard now has a substantial Christian fundamentalist community that is working to inject their brand of reason into what is otherwise thought of as Science. Here was my written response, which was not published:
“The author of “For the Worst of Us, the Diagnosis May Be ‘Evil’ ” (Feb. 6) seems to be treating evil as an entity complete with Platonic underpinnings. An evolutionary approach, on the other hand, treats evil as a concept with a survival purpose involving harm or potential harm. Seen this way, evil is something that will never be measurable, since only the people being threatened or harmed (or their allies) perceive the evil. Inevitably, “evildoers” rarely if ever see themselves as such.”
Finally, What would I have a president call Saddam or Soviet leaders? I personally try to avoid name calling, but he can call them anything he wants if he thinks it will rally support. I simply feel that presidents should be aware that words reflecting actual reality have much more potential for positive effect than those based on ancient superstition. So Champ, my boiled down answer is: call them nothing at all, and take action if you feel you must, preferably without lying to your constituency and Congress.