Does a result excuse the method?
The problem with rationalizing “the ends justifies the means” is that the promise of an end is an illusion. Not only are we not in control of when something is over, but we often find ourselves with less control than when we began. Rationalization usually undermines a proper process: a process we are likely to miss when on the receiving end of any fallout. And make no mistake, fallout is inevitable. Unless we are completely alone and isolated, we or our children will always suffer an effect to what we have done.
When I was younger, if something was on my mind, I’d say it. I sent many an email to get something off my chest. My rationalization was that I was putting an end to whatever situation was bothering me. I responded and it was over. Well, sort of. Something ended, but something else was about to begin. A second after clicking the Send button, I stopped worrying about what I was going to say to how what I said would be received, and whether I should have said what I said, or should have said it differently. A typical response to haste is often one that is equally or less considered or considerate.
It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about emails, insulting waiters who could later spit in our food, executive orders that can ultimately be reversed, filibuster rules destined to be missed, partisan legislation that lasts only as long as the balance of power, or launching a nuclear assault that spreads radiation back to our shores. The “ends justifies the means” usually leads to a more unpleasant next chapter.
In the chapter of 2017, countless rubber bands have begun snapping back and stinging those who launched them. In most cases, rather than the launchers admitting their error, they point out that they weren’t the ones who started it. They argue that their actions are a fair retaliation. In reality, the right to fairness cannot be exclusively claimed. Democrats blame Republicans, and Republicans blame Democrats, no different than children blame their siblings. Countless parents have explained: “It doesn’t matter who started it; it’s up to you to put an end to it.” By “end” they refer to the behavior.
Our behavior, on a whole, is abhorrent. It’s no accident that civility has fallen by the wayside. What’s right has been replaced by what’s righteous, and righteousness is self-excusing. Excuses don’t matter. At best they assuage guilt, beseeching forgiveness in lieu of a lesson, completing one transgression en route to queuing up and justifying another.
Whether we recognize it or not, like it or not, accept it or not, proper process and fairness matter. Even more now that they are dying. We are lying to ourselves if we think there can be exemptions. There cannot. Frankly, I don’t know if we can put ourselves back together. The monumental achievement of this nation’s inception was hard enough when the country was smaller. The principles we should all be valuing, scarcely get a mention. The more we keep focusing on the ends, the more likely our end will be.