I’ll be blamed (by myself at least) for posting on politics again, which I have generally ruled off-topic here at TNP(s), but I’m haunted by two particularly discordant public statements made yesterday – and I can throw in a literary reference by way of comment, so that makes it all copacetic, right?
The first statement was uttered by our departing president in his Farewell Address. He reminded us of the sense of “moral clarity” which he had always sought to preserve for himself and to provide for the nation:
I have often spoken to you about good and evil. This has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two there can be no compromise.
The second statement was made by the Attorney General-designate, Eric Holder, in his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Responding to Patrick Leahy’s pet question, which he has posed to all recent AGs and nominees for AG, Holder gave the senator his first-ever flat affirmative:
Water-boarding is torture.
Now for my literary reference, from Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago:
In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments…Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts.
This is precisely what was obscured by the sort of “moral clarity” on offer these past eight years: the admission that even the worthiest of human endeavors is built on compromise, and the sober conviction that we always have it within ourselves – as individuals and as a nation – to become our own worst enemy.