Black, White, Gray

A reader writes:

Today you wrote:

"It's amazing that a president who claims to see the world in black and white, and good and evil, sees the question of torture as one full of gray."

It's not amazing, it's human nature. 

We've always seen the evil other people do in clear terms of black-and-white, and our own evil is always lost in a fog of gray. We grant ourselves vast swaths of nuance, while demanding clarity from others. Our enemies' motives are always clear and wrong, our own always justified and right.

It’'s a story as old as time. You'll find it told in the Illiad, in the Bible, in Shakespeare and Dickens, in Mark Twain and Sinclair Lewis. Heck, you'll find it in "The Sopranos" and any sitcom.

To find this amazing you'd have to believe we are really different from our forebearers, that our own apple fell across the street from the tree. The human condition didn't change because we have better technology, technology just distracts us from ourselves more efficiently.

But it is also possible to make the effort to resist this inevitable distortion of human nature. What is amazing about the Christianists is not that they fail at this effort; but that they do not even try.