Last week, the All Things Beautiful blog challenged readers to come up with a list of the Top Ten Worst Americans. Dozens responded with nominations. The ATB author summarizes:
It is very interesting how a few names are emerging as a constant. On everyone's lips and the number one favorite is Benedict Arnorld [sic], very closely followed by Jimmy Carter, Joseph McArthy [sic; McCarthy], Richard Nixon, George Soros, Aaron Burr, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (no particular order). Jane Fonda has appeared on quite a few lists, and so has George Bush, J. E. Hoover, John Kerry, Lyndon Johnson and Alger Hiss.
George Bush? John Kerry? Jimmy Carter?
I have a threshold question: What possible good could come of this mean-spirited little game? Why on earth did ATB choose to stir up trouble like this? (To attract readership, duh.)
Try a thought experiment: You're Benedict Arnold, about to go over to the British. Knowing what you know, and being "wired" the way you're wired:
- Do you recognize that you're doing something likely to harm others, but you do it anyway, because it will be good for you, and that's all that matters?
- Or do you feel instead that, on balance, you're "doing the needful," something that you hope will eventually lead to a good result not just for you but for your fellows?
None of us can say for sure what goes through anyone else's mind. My money is usually on Door Number 2. While the sociopath we will always have with us, it's still a safe bet that few people set out to do evil for its own sake.
Of course, let's try to learn from our history. And when we see what we regard as evil, let's fight it. But there's no warrant for demonizing our adversaries. No matter how terrible we think others' actions have been, there's zero justification for personal villification of this kind. All that does is increase the net level of hatred in the world — as if there weren't enough of that already.
(Hat tip to the overly-liberal but otherwise-estimable Salty Vicar, who disappointingly came up with his own list.)