Saturday, January 21, 2012

On Moral Equivalency

There has been some criticism of the foreign policy of the United States, and a sure spark of outrage comes about when anyone mentions that the US may have played a part in bringing about the attacks upon our land and citizenry. Critics of that criticism of our foreign policy decry we are morally equating what the US government is trying to do, and what our enemies are trying to do. That claim of being morally equivalent is disingenuous and flat out, untrue.
Consider, a pair of neighbors, each house holding extended families. Family A is a liberty-loving family; Family B is a totalitarian family. Family A observes equal rights for its members; Family B is heavily patriarchal, and going beyond seeks to oppress the female members, even by violence. In our example here, though abused, the women in Family B stay and still embrace their family.

One day, a teenage girl of Family B decides she wanted to look out at the stars, but she went out of the house alone to look at the stars. The next day, the uncle in Family A sees the teenage girl crying, and that she has a black eye. This teenage girl decides that she no longer wants to remain at the house, and seeks to escape. Now, uncle from Family B comes out and begins to beat her for trying to escape. Family A uncle comes and beats Family B uncle into submission so the teenage girl can get away from the abuse.

Here comes the head of the family from Family B. His teenage daughter has left, and his brother has been beaten. Will he be angry at how things have transpired? Add to how he feels, that he accepts violence as a means of dealing with his problems – should Family A think that there will be some attempt at vengeance from Family B? It would be foolish to not expect anything.

This in no way equates the violence that was used to beat the girl with the violence used to defend her. One scenario, the violence was a tool of oppression while in the other scenario, violence was a tool to break that oppression. Moral equivalency would state that there was no difference between the scenarios; oppression or freedom, it doesn’t matter.

It is not moral equivalency to state that by the uncle in Family A’s beating the uncle in Family B, that the As had retaliation coming – it is just an acceptance that from the actions that have been taken, that A should prepare, and not be surprised if B does attack in some form.

There is a characteristic of many-a-hero in stories across history that was tied into their downfall: hubris. Hubris is arrogant pride that makes one see themselves as beyond normal consequences. It can affect a country collectively just as it can any individual. To not see the actions of a country as beyond any negative consequence is the surest way to bring about its downfall.

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