The good, the bad and the joy of revenge

DATELINE: December 7, 2020, from Lady Proverbs, somewhere on the Oregon coast

As I was sipping a most wonderful cup of Portland Roasters Morning Blend, The Husband stated that he had found one thing that he disagreed with Spinoza about. Understand now that he has spent a good portion of his life being a scholar of Spinoza. Not in the academic way where you have consumed the literature review and written white papers on a particular stance of a particular philosopher, but consider it just an academic exercise, rather than a real search for the truth. But as someone who is toiling as Spinoza’s Nephew, as he calls himself, to break down a complex philosophy in a way that anyone can understand. The Husband believes that if only people understood Spinoza’s eternity, truth and substance, and breakdown of the panoply of human emotions, among many other precepts, that life could be understood in ways that improve human existence in daily tangible ways.

So today he said he disagreed with one of Spinoza’s coda: that hatred was always bad. I try to push the forgive but don’t forget posture, but this is where The Husband and I diverge. He has much to forgive that he won’t. An abusive mother and being in the Vietnam war lead the list, with a dysfunctional family in third place. “The poison stays in you in you don’t forgive,” I say, but he disputes me. Probably because he feels that lets the bad ones off the hook.

I get that. Currently I’m writing a book about hatred, vengeance and evil, and whether it’s acceptable to use violence against evil to stop it, such as with the murderous insanity of Nazi Germany. It would seem that it does, although the consequences for those who do bad things against real evil can last a lifetime, bringing real trauma and pain that impacts not just one life, but others’ as well who are part of that person’s life circle. Being December 7th, the “Day that will live in infamy,” we recall an evil attack that ultimately led to hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people being killed for no better reason than rabid patriotism, narcissism and greed. The desire to avenge the American lives lost at Pearl Harbor fueled our involvement in WWII and all that followed. Few felt badly about the atomic bombs that dropped to stop the evil and insanity. Evil stopping evil. While the documentation of the destruction of those Japanese cities is horrific, I’m also not sure that anything short of that would have stopped hundreds of thousands of more lives from being lost as we fought the war just as we had been fighting it. Would one path really have been better than the other when asking an virulent nation to surrender was met with rejection? I don’t know. But I do know definitively answering this question is not as cut and dried as some might want to make it.

As a Gemini, I can generally see both sides of any argument, although I clearly fall on one side or the other. Not all counter arguments are worth considering, but some are, and those tend to be the toughest ones. Besides the situations where hatred is easy to come by, such as torture of murders and rapists, or abuse of pederasts and those who harm children, there are issues that are not clear cut. Take abortion for example. Pro-choice respects a woman’s right to control her own body and physical and mental health, rather than that being defined by a male-dominated culture undergirded by real hypocrisy. This includes men who have gotten women pregnant and walked away, date-raped, visited prostitutes, played in the arena of sexual harassment at worse while being self-righteous church goers; or used inappropriate language that they have no fucking clue they are engaging in, at best, which demeans and devalues women in ways so subtle that it makes it near to impossible to call out. I would guess that most women reading this know exactly what I’m talking about.

Yet I can understand those women who feel like abortion is taking a life because it is a fine line there to which there is likely no answer. Most women who get an abortion understand that fine line, and they can live with the choices they make, some times with a lingering sadness and others not. If our society took better care of children born as unwanted, instant orphans, or born to women living in poverty, with homelessness or other ills, maybe there would be less abortion. I don’t know. Yet I personally feel strongly in a woman’s right to choose. I used to say that if men got pregnant you could get an abortion in a drive-through at a gas station. But I know that’s rather crude, which I can tend towards, so I try not to say it out loud that much. Oops, just said it again.

But I digress. Back to the hatred thing. If you think of the worst thing that could happen to you or your family by someone else, no greater fear than that is possible. So if any of those evil things did occur, it does seem more than natural to want revenge. To want that perpetrator to suffer even worse than they made your family member suffer, or you. The victims want peace of mind, and revenge seems the elixir for that.

Yet once in a while I’ll see a news segment on a court case where the aggrieved party or their surviving relatives say that they forgive the perp, whether murderer or not. Where does that strength come from, and is it the true elixir of life that allows for the oft sought after Peace of Mind, Understanding of God thing that many seek? Is that nirvana? Is that the definition of a truly Good Person? Or can Peace of Mind be realized instead by the purest form of revenge, where the murderer is killed, the rapist is raped, the torturer is tortured?

I want to believe that forgiveness without exception is The Path to God and real Peace of Mind. But as a human who doesn’t always have such high values, I do feel good when bad things happen to bad people.

Is that so bad?

Sorry, Spinoza. I’m just not there yet. See you when I get there.

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