Several news stories in the past week or so should raise questions about our ability—or at least the ability of the journalists reporting the stories as well as some of the stories’ subjects–to distinguish good guys from the bad. For example:
The State of Israel has been condemned (as usual) for defending itself against an attack from Hamas, a Palestinian-based terrorist organization seeking Israel’s destruction. At issue is whether Israel was justified in killing “demonstrators” against the relocation of the American embassy to Jerusalem, claimed by Israel as its capital city. Even the Hamas leadership admits most of the demonstrators were members of Hamas. Yet critics throughout the world and in the American news media still believe that Israel is unique among nations in that it not only lacks the right to determine its own capital, it even lacks the right to defend itself. They prattle on about Israel’s “overreaction” to provocations. But for what it’s worth, I believe that given that Israel is a democratic republic (and an ally of the United States), and that terrorists want to kill Israel and the Israelis, then, therefore, Israel has a right to defend itself. The Israeli Defense Force members are the good guys, and the terrorists are the bad guys, not the other way around.
President Trump has gotten himself in trouble—so what else is new?—by calling members of the MS-13 gang “animals.” Initially, his critics were accusing him of referring to immigrants in general as animals, and thereby dehumanizing them and stirring up more prejudice against them. But even though it’s now generally acknowledged that he was limiting his remarks to members of the infamous gang, he’s still being called guilty for demonizing not only the gang members but other immigrants as well.
Now, I’ll concede that President Trump has insulted real animals—dogs, cats, sheep, goats, cattle, whatever—by comparing MS-13 members to them. But, although I may be going out on a limb here, I’d argue that gangs such as MS-13, which get their jollies from murder, rape, robbery, etc., are truly evil and that calling them “animals” is hardly too harsh a description of their depravity. I can’t help but think that President Trump’s statements are being criticized mainly because they were made by—President Trump. At any rate, MS-13 members are bad guys.
Of course, President Trump does deserve some criticism for criticizing immigrants in general with too broad a brush, but he also deserves criticism for airbrushing the faults of others. His remarks about Kim Jung-Un are a case in point. In recent weeks, as the possibility of a summit between the President and the North Korean dictator remains strong, he has made conciliatory remarks about his prospective negotiating partner. Certainly, this makes more sense than demonizing him if the President wants a successful outcome to his negotiations. But neither President Trump nor anyone else should forget that Kim is a brutal totalitarian dictator who, with his father and grandfather, has turned North Korea into one big concentration camp. Even though we have to work with him, we should not forget he’s a bad guy.
Which brings us to last week’s most horrific piece of news—the Santa Fe slaughter. Once again, a domestic terrorist has murdered innocent students and teachers. Once again, blame will be pinned on the NRA as it gets accused of blocking tough new gun patrol measures which would not have prevented the murders but which will, if implemented, reduce the rights of those who had nothing whatever to do with it. I would argue that it’s far better to put more armed guards in the public schools and have more extensive background checks for gun owners than to blame organizations whose members don’t shoot up schools and to punish innocent gun owners by reducing their freedoms. In short, the shooters, and not innocent gun owners, are the bad guys.
Anti-Israeli terrorism, MS-13, North Korea, and mass murders are all problems with which We the People must grapple. Whether their seeming intractability means they’re unsolvable or that we’re simply not yet doing a good enough job solving them is debatable. But if we take the position that we must at least try to solve these problems then we should, first of all, become better at telling the good guys from the bad.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.