Can Evil Be Defended?

If one considers slavery evil, as I do, then can such evil be defended? It can be chronicled, described, documented, explained, talked about, criticized, shunned, reviled, ostracized but not defended. At least not if one believes in making a better world, lessening suffering, in decency, morality, compassion, ethical behavior, harmlessness, social responsibility, justice, human dignity or even love. Yet directly or indirectly it seems that is what Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark, is endeavoring to do. In a recent interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, he is calling slavery a necessary evil and  linking that characterization to the greatness of the US, a country founded he reminds us on the proposition that all mankind is created equal. He has introduced a bill, Saving American History Act of 2020 that would prohibit the use of federal funds to teach the 1619 Project in K-12 schools or school districts. The  Pulitzer prize winning 1619 Project was undertaken under the aegis of the NYT and traced the consequences of slavery to today’s problems thus documenting the long arms of the evils it represented and unleashed. In an age of the Black Lives Matters movement and protests, this is not a proposal that can be ignored. Mr. Cotton was duly elected and has a following which make him a possible presidential candidate in 2024. I am not in the habit of writing about politics and I admit that I may be overly direct in stating Mr. Cotton’s argument. But this is not about politics, it is about how to move forward, how to recognize evil including the evil of slavery, address it and repair the harm it has caused. Defending slavery does not fit into a race-relations agenda that as far as I understand is necessary to save the future of the United States.

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