Niagara Gazette

September 11, 2013

BRADBERRY: Paragons of Virtue, or Bastions of Evil?

By Bill Bradberry
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — “Father, father. We don’t need to escalate. You can see, war is not the answer; only love can conquer hate.”

Marvin Gaye

Our youngest relatives and a fresh crop of new politicians were born after that terrible day twelve years ago when what some believe to have been a physical manifestation of an ideological clash between absolute goodness and evil incarnate collided at the World Trade Center, permanently changing our view of the world, of each other, and of ourselves.

As a result of that nightmare, we tend to see the world through a narrower prism than before, as paragons of virtue, or as bastions of evil.

Do we see people, their political philosophies, their religions, cultures, organizations and their behaviors as being either virtuous (good), or evil (bad); is there any room left for patience and tolerance, has compromise become the newest curse word?

That prism is affecting everything we do and don’t do, from international relations to local politics; just look at what’s happening.

As we move toward the election of officials with whom we must entrust the responsibility of intelligently deliberating serious issues and making tough decisions, the consequences of which may reverberate long past their terms of office, people are more than a little skeptical of each other; we’re “taking sides”, drawing hard lines and standing firmly behind them whether or not our positions make a single iota of sense.

The opposing side will spend the entire term of office doing their best to destroy the victor because they are convinced that the winner is not worthy of the office and must therefore be brought down at any cost, even if doing so risks the wellbeing of the community they each profess to seek to serve.

Have we become so dogmatic, so inflexible that we refuse to see or hear anything that the other side has to offer just because whatever they’re proposing must be wrong since it’s their idea, not ours?

Instead of stooping so low to conquer, wouldn’t it be wise to stop and ask, “How does our intransigence help anybody; whose interests are actually being served, theirs, ours, or someone else’s?”

Is it possible that people on opposite sides of an equation might have some shared interests, which if mutually pursued might render rewarding outcomes beneficial to all concerned, or must their opposing interests always be mutually exclusive, in other words, is it ever possible that what is good for the goose may also be good for the gander?

Perhaps the Victorian era writer-poet, Samuel Butler, author of “The Way of All Flesh” was absolutely correct when he wrote, “The truest characters of ignorance are vanity, and pride and arrogance.”

If ignorance is the disease, enlightenment is the remedy, but as history also teaches us, educated fools have squandered riches and brought down nations; unfortunately, stupidity seems to have no such simple cure.

If there are lessons to be learned from the tragedy of the towers, at least one of them might be that, if we as a people on this small, ever more crowded planet, beset by diminishing resources are going to survive, we will have to find better ways to resolve our differences.

Watching television news re-runs this week of that awful day, seeing the fresh video news images of the tragedies happening right now in the Middle East and beyond, it is difficult to understand how people can be so cruel to each other.

Yet I am constantly reminded that such human depravity is never far away, or so long ago, that our own history is replete with its own, that unchecked power, at any level can corrupt absolutely.

As Abraham Lincoln put it, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

We have indeed borne witness to that!

Whether it is a local election, or a conflict among nations, peace through enlightenment and understanding is always the better course.

Otherwise, as Mathew attributes Jesus as having said, “If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”

Beware of the ditches ...

Contact Bill Bradberry at

Contact Bill at