After three months of this I have a pretty clear idea what happened. We’re hoping for the best.
But regardless, what seems very clear is that the teacher who claims my son assaulted her believes firmly in good and evil. Especially evil.
Evil can be a noun, a verb, or a modifier. As a verb it refers to action everyone knows is wrong. As a noun it refers to the person behind that action, and may also be used to damn their character, to consign them to the netherworld of death or prison. As a modifier it’s a political football as in the term evil-doer.
How many more innocents have died in Iraq these last 5 years, at our hands, wittingly or unwittingly, compared to the number who died on 9-11? Yet our leaders refer to those who planned 9-11 as evil-doers, and to our own good men and women as liberators.
It’s nonsense. War is evil, no matter who does it, no matter their cause. It is all hell. It is violence, it is destruction. It’s a central lesson told by everyone who has come back from any war. The only way to justify such evil is to see the other side as more evil, so that the war becomes self-defense.
I shouldn’t criticize. That’s our defense as well.
Thus does the political become personal, but here’s what
distinguishes the two. George W. Bush and his followers truly believe
in some objective evil, an evil which excuses our own actions but damns
those of the other based on motive.
The same is true for the person accusing our son. The same is true,
unfortunately, of many Americans, perhaps most Americans, when they
consider offenses against people and property. Evil actions, regardless
of motive, demand vengeance. The evil-doer must be punished, or more
evil will result. Every excuse is just that, an excuse. There must be
vengeance, an eye for an eye, blood for blood. Offend me and be damned.
The intellectual’s response is to deny evil, at least objective
evil. Evil deeds are seldom done for evil’s sake. There are always
reasons — disease, history, culture, abuse, psychology — and the
battle against evil should be aimed at eradicating the causes of evil
actions, so far as we can.
I need to state at this point that the accuser in the personal case
is black, and we are white. One thing I’ve learned through 25 years of
living in Atlanta is many of my black neighbors believe firmly in evil,
as they believe in their Bible. Some of my very best friends in life,
some of them now long departed, were of this cast of mind. It was the
only explanation they could accept for the evil done to them, and to
their families, over the course of their lifetimes, and it was the only
weapon they had to ward it off in their own households.
Not that it worked. One of the most judgmental had a son I referred
to, jokingly, as the "neighbor hood." He was a drunk, a drug addict, a
small-time thief, a drag on the mother who loved him and on everyone
else around him. He didn’t wind up in prison, nor did his illegal and
immoral addictions do him in. Instead if was lung cancer. He was quite
angry about it.
I have sometimes used the fear of evil in my own life, in order to
keep my son’s own demons at bay. I threatened him with being cut-off,
although I know now I had no intention of carrying out the threat, nor
the others with which I abused him. My intent was to concentrate his
attention at the point of temptation, the point of attack when he
became angry with a teacher, or a classmate, and wanted only to lash
back in words or with his little fists.
It didn’t work.
What has worked, fitfully, obviously not completely, has been
patience, therapy, medicine, and love. It’s a process. It’s a long
process. It is, seemingly, never-ending. But we have seen progress.
When academically challenged our son hyper-concentrates, which means he
works hard, and learns, and achieves, and succeeds in ways that
convince me he can do great good in the world, far greater than I have
been able to do.
Yet for the last three months an absolute belief in evil has
threatened to lay him low, to lay us all low. And still that sword
hangs over us all. The kind words of his other teachers mean nothing,
neither do his grades. His own good works, his tutoring and
religiosity, his own determination, all the good within him, may still
mean nothing against the belief in absolute evil.
It’s as though he were an Iraqi.