sometimes they must violate their values in order to maintain those values

July 25, 2008 at 8:48 am | Posted in American politics | 12 Comments

That’s the argument made by conservative Andrew Klavan in the Wall Street Journal.

The true complexity arises when we must defend these values in a world that does not universally embrace them — when we reach the place where we must be intolerant in order to defend tolerance, or unkind in order to defend kindness, or hateful in order to defend what we love.

When heroes arise who take those difficult duties on themselves, it is tempting for the rest of us to turn our backs on them, to vilify them in order to protect our own appearance of righteousness. We prosecute and execrate the violent soldier or the cruel interrogator in order to parade ourselves as paragons of the peaceful values they preserve. As Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon says of the hated and hunted Batman, “He has to run away — because we have to chase him.”

That’s real moral complexity. And when our artistic community is ready to show that sometimes men must kill in order to preserve life; that sometimes they must violate their values in order to maintain those values; and that while movie stars may strut in the bright light of our adulation for pretending to be heroes, true heroes often must slink in the shadows, slump-shouldered and despised — then and only then will we be able to pay President Bush his due and make good and true films about the war on terror.

If you violate your values, is it not true that you no longer maintain those values? If you break the law, you no longer keep the law, so why would anyone argue that you still are capable of maintaining values you yourself violate? It is impossible. But that’s what conservatives would want you to believe. It is utterly reprehensible. It is truly astonishing that those who would call themselves Christians would believe this kind of crap but they do.

You cannot defend tolerance with intolerance. You cannot defend kindness with unkindness. You cannot defend love with hate. It is impossible. The moment you become intolerant, you are no longer tolerant. The moment you become unkind, you are no longer kind. The moment you become hateful, you are no longer full of love. To argue otherwise is dumb, put simply.

How exactly does someone make such a stupid argument on the venerable Wall Street Journal?

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  1. “How exactly does someone make such a stupid argument on the venerable Wall Street Journal?”

    The answer eludes you because you have absolutely no comprehension whatsoever of concepts such as “right or wrong”, “good or bad”, “righteous or evil”. While you wallow in your moral equivalence it is literally impossible for you to acknowledge that the manner I might treat you as a guest in my house is very different than how I would treat you if you broke into my house with a loaded gun. In the former circumstance I might offer you a cocktail (sorry, I don’t have any cocaine). In the latter case you would die a horrible death when the bullet from my gun passed through your left ear. In either case I would not lose a moment of sleep. This is not rocket science – it is completely rational to love life and take yours when you have “evil” intentions, and do both at the precisely same time.

    “If you violate your values, is it not true that you no longer maintain those values?”

    No, its not true at all. You erroneously believe that when I treat you one way and then treat you a different way that it is MY values that are compromised. My “values” do not include deliberately hurting people. However, the “values” I use regarding how I might treat you are totally dependent upon YOUR actions and intentions. So when I take away your cocktail glass and instead put a bullet in your brain, it is because YOUR actions or intentions have changed, my values are not change nor compromised in any way.

    “The moment you become intolerant, you are no longer tolerant.”

    Using your predictably lame argument: In my effort to teach my son “tolerance” you would say that my values are compromised if I ever displayed “intolerance” if he refused to do what I tell him to do. I am so glad you don’t have children (and if you do, I pity them).

    Our values are completely dependent upon the actions and intentions of the people with whom we come into contact. Your obfuscation and resulting indignation of the article simply reconfirms that speaking the “truth” and doing what is “right” is the courageous and difficult path. I am not bound by the ineptitude of your cowardly moral equivalence. Nor is Batman. Nor is “W”. This is precisiely the reason why you despise them and people like me. That you completely missed the point of this article comes as no surprise to anyone except yourself and other like-minded liberals who believe that all morality is circumstantial – it most definetely is not. Moral equivlence is, after all else, the defining difference between being conservative or liberal and I personally appreciate your clear demonstration of this difference in such stark terms.

    By the way, kudos for getting the words “Christians” and “crap” in the same sentence. You have reinforced your liberal credentials – congratulations. Your definition of “tolerance” is on display for everyone to admire.

  2. The actions of the Bush administration clearly indicate that we are no longer subject to the rule of law, but only the rule of men, and we are now all eligible to become a law unto ourselves.

    If Bush can cause the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens for what he determines to be the common good, without fear of punishment, then we should not be surprised at all when the next John Wilkes Booth steps out shouting “Sic semper tyrannis!” and does what he feels must absolutely be done in the name of justice.

  3. This is my first visit to this website as I was looking for something worth reading about a so called “good democrat!” Unfortunately Daniel, you have fallen well short of the mark IMHO!

    I just want to piggyback on to what your first poster, RAH, stated! That has to be the best rebuttal I’ve had the pleasure of reading this whole past year! Thank you RAH! Most excellent post! Made my visit to this website actually worth it!

    Sorry Daniel, keep trying! I’ll keep looking for a Good Democrat in the mean time!

  4. Daniel, you’re spot on. Life isn’t about surviving it; it’s about doing what’s right. The minute we do something wrong to “better” our lives, we slip. The whole purpose of our existence is to do what’s right, no matter the consequences. The end does NOT justify the means, but rather the means ARE the end. God won’t care about our rationalizations or justifications for doing bad things for the right reasons.

  5. Rah,

    The answer eludes you because you have absolutely no comprehension whatsoever of concepts such as “right or wrong”, “good or bad”, “righteous or evil”.

    Actually I do.

    While you wallow in your moral equivalence it is literally impossible for you to acknowledge that the manner I might treat you as a guest in my house is very different than how I would treat you if you broke into my house with a loaded gun.

    And of course this has nothing at all to do with the matter at hand. But thank you for obfuscating the matter, muddying the issue so that we don’t get a clear picture of what we should be choosing. And this is the problem. You would rather obfuscate that simplify.

    Let me put it to you clearly and hopefully your crappy education can catch it.

    If I were to break into your house, you would be well within your rights to defend yourself. How you treat me as a criminal attempting to break into your house has nothing at all to do with how you treat me if I come knocking as a guest. One would hope that you would be respectful to someone coming by for a visit, but then again, you’re a conservative. I don’t expect that from your kind. A cheap shot, yes, but not undeserving.

    Now, let’s break it down to where it matters: the criminal. My value system is as follows. I treat others as I would want them to treat me. The Golden Rule. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is what I believe in. Jesus taught that we should love our enemies. Someone who breaks into my house is my enemy. Jesus taught that I should do good unto those who would spitefully use me, that I should turn the other cheek to someone who slaps me. If you were to break into my home, I would be within my rights to terminate your life, or to subdue you to the point where you are no longer a threat. What that means is that you no longer can threaten to harm my family or my property. That can include killing you. This is all justified by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, my moral anchor. But where I would go past this line is if I have you subdued and then I continue pummeling you, whether to exact vengeance or to attempt to extract information about any accomplice. At this point, I have violated my own values and no longer live those values. The point that you are no longer a threat to my person, my family, or my property is the point where any kind of violence or aggressive act against you must end. Any aggressive or violent act beyond that point towards you by me would be a violation of the morals I uphold. At that point, I lose being the moral person I claim to be. It is therefore impossible for me to maintain those values because I no longer maintain those values! If you cannot maintain your values, you are no longer maintaining your values! It is that simple you stupid idiot.

    However, the “values” I use regarding how I might treat you are totally dependent upon YOUR actions and intentions. So when I take away your cocktail glass and instead put a bullet in your brain, it is because YOUR actions or intentions have changed, my values are not change nor compromised in any way.

    On this point we actually agree, and I hope you see that. But that’s not what is argued in the article in the Wall Street Journal. What is argued is that the additional things, those things that violate our values are justified when they really are not. Ironically, the writer agrees—whether he realizes or not—that torture indeed goes against our value system. I’m glad he realizes this. Do you? See, what you are describing in your burglar example is not what the writer is trying to justify. To protect your home from a burglar by shooting him is NOT going against your value system, and you even argue that! Be real dude. At least admit, as the writer does, that what you really want justified are the things that actually violate your own morals. To this point you have failed to describe justifying anything that you would not normally do. If a burglar enters your home, you are wholly justified in taking action against him. But you are NOT justified in torturing him. Will you claim that you are justified in torturing him in order to protect the values you would violate by torturing him? Can you see the stupidity in that argument? That’s the argument the writer is making.

    Our values are completely dependent upon the actions and intentions of the people with whom we come into contact.

    No they are not, though you’d like to think they are. But they are not. I take it you don’t believe in Jesus. Because Jesus taught us to love our enemies. He didn’t leave a loophole for what kind of enemies we should not love. He said, “love your enemies.” He didn’t say “Love your enemies, except for the Russians, the Iranians and the Saudis.” No loophole. All enemies. This means that your value system (at least mine because I believe in Jesus) is universal and applies to all, no matter how THEY act. My morals are not tied to how my enemy acts, but to how I ACT! My morals are a description of me, NOT my enemy. Who gives a damn what my enemy does. I treat him the same, no matter who he is and what he is trying to do to me.

    This is precisiely the reason why you despise them and people like me.

    No, I despise people like you because you are stupid.

  6. Mark,

    Right on.

    I fixed your comment and deleted the second one.

  7. Chris,

    I just want to piggyback on to what your first poster, RAH, stated! That has to be the best rebuttal I’ve had the pleasure of reading this whole past year! Thank you RAH! Most excellent post! Made my visit to this website actually worth it!

    Of course. It only reinforced what you already believed.

  8. Dave,

    Thank you. That’s exactly the point.

  9. Let me give another example of what people like Andrew Klavan and RAH are wanting to do.

    Say you are on the plane with Mohammed Atta just taking control of the plane and heading towards New York City. You have a gun in your hand. You take out his accomplices and you approach him in the cockpit. You tell him to land this plane or you will kill him.

    To this point, have you violated any of your values? Nope. Not a single one. Atta’s accomplices were a threat to your life and the lives of your fellow passengers.

    Scenario 1:

    You give Atta an ultimatum. You tell him that if he does not start landing the plane in 1 minute, you will kill him. He chooses not to land the plane and you fire a bullet into his head, killing him.

    To this point, have you violated any of your morals or values? Nope, not a single one. Atta continued to be a threat who would not give up. Your only real option was to kill him. So far, so good. Now, let’s look at a second option.

    Scenario 2:

    You give Atta an ultimatum. You tell him to start landing this plane in one minute or you will put a bullet in his head. Atta thinks it over and gives up. He surrenders to you.

    You take him, cuff him and get the pilots to fly and land the plane.

    Atta is now in your custody. You don’t know if there are other planes out there. You need to find out.

    To this point, have you violated any of your morals or values? Nope, not a single one. Atta surrendered to you, and everyone on the plane is safe. Now, let’s see two more scenarios.

    Scenario 3:

    You begin talking with Atta about any other planes out there hijacked. He refuses to say anything. You get the feeling that there just might be. You have the pilots radio in that there is a live plot going on and to have all pilots be on alert, to have the White House and the Pentagon alerted. They do so. Other pilots discover plots against them but are prepared. No plane crashes into any building.

    To this point, have you violated any of your morals or values? Nope, not a single one. Atta would not speak, but his silence spoke for him, and you got the word out as fast as you could and saved the day. One last scenario.

    Scenario 4:

    You begin talking with Atta about any other planes out there hijacked. He refuses to say anything. You raise your gun to his head and threaten to kill him if he doesn’t answer. He refuses. You hit him in the head with your gun causing him to bleed and cry out. He still refuses to answer. You start breaking his fingers and he still refuses to answer. You start kicking him in the stomach, breaking some ribs. He still refuses to answer. You start banging his head on the floor and finally, close to unconsciousness he says “No, we were the only ones.” You don’t like that answer. You have the pilots radio in that there is a live plot going on and to have all pilots be on alert, to have the White House and the Pentagon alerted. They do so. Other pilots discover plots against them but are prepared. No plane crashes into any building.

    Okay, so now have you violated your morals and values? Yep, you bet you did. You beat a man senseless, close to death, who had already surrendered to you. Not only that but the value of the “intelligence” that he gave you through that beating was worthless, utterly utterly worthless. He only said it so you would stop beating him.

    People like RAH cannot understand that the actions that are against the values we espouse that we are supposed to support in order to protect the values we espouse are worthless in the end and utterly counterproductive. They’ve sipped too much of their own Kool-Aid, the fake world propaganda that they use to stir people’s fears into submitting to their ideology. They actually believe their own crap. What a bunch of idiots!

  10. here is a great argument that the Dark Knight’s extra-legal actions are at the heart of the chaos within Gotham.

    Indeed, a great argument.

  11. Daniel,

    You might enjoy this review (if that’s what it is) of Dark Night.

  12. Thanks Mark, that review was very good.


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