I’m not evil, and neither are you

Interviewed by an NPR reporter on Inauguration Day, a retired mortgage broker responded to the question of whether the President should reach out to the other side, given how divided the country is.

“What’s to reach out to?” he said. “You can’t negotiate with evil.”

He was talking about me.

I’ve been called a few things in my day, but until now, evil hasn’t been one of them. Whether you level it against an individual or half a nation, evil is a big, bad accusation.

We have a unity problem in this country. Demonizing your opponents as a way of instilling fear and loathing is apparently something we’re supposed to accept.

I reject this notion. I reject your label of evil.

There’s this story about a certain original pair of humans who long ago ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Maybe you accept this story as fact. Either way, the point is the same — in distinguishing good from evil, we humans have a large responsibility.

Evil is not someone whose politics differ from yours. Evil is not someone who disagrees with your core values. Evil is not someone who looks different from you. Evil is not someone whose cherished beliefs differ from yours. Evil is not someone who affirms the value of dissent in a functional democracy.

To be good, to do good is a struggle that we humans willingly embrace. When we falter, when we disagree, that’s not evil.

If you happen to believe in the notion of sin, you quite possibly believe in the idea of redemption. When you call people evil, you imply that they’re beyond redemption.

I can easily say I’ve never personally known anyone who deserves to be called evil. So, Mr. Retired Mortgage Broker, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here.

I’m not evil, and neither are you.