Yesterday was a bad day for Rick Wilson. Without knowing or caring much about who this man was, he found himself seeking to score points against both Domino’s Pizza and the Trump administration by dragging Domino’s for liking a post made in favor of their pizza on social media eight years ago from the woman who is now our president’s press secretary. Perhaps someone should have warned him this was not a good idea, because his posts from eight years ago reflect a very different political viewpoint than he expresses now, and a great many people spent the day laughing at his hilarious bad takes on political matters and pointing out his comments about various public figures. Things went more serious, though, when someone found that he and his family, while on a boating trip, had a family cooler with a Confederate flag that said the South will rise again. This is not an uncommon sentiment for many Southerners, although it is not a sentiment I happen to personally share. It is, however, a very problematic sentiment to express on one’s instagram profile for someone who is a co-founder of the Lincoln Project and who has spent years dragging Republican politicians for pandering to pro-Confederate groups in the South. Life comes at you fast, and insulting and trying to humiliate and “cancel” people for doing what you do is the sort of hypocrisy that makes you impossible to sympathize with or pity when your time for judgment arrives.
A few days ago, a black man in the Atlanta area named Rayshard Brooks got drunk. This would not have made much of a difference except it was the first in a series of bad decisions made by him (and others) that led to his death by cop-assisted suicide. Perhaps he should not have gotten drunk and impaired his reasoning facilities. Perhaps, after getting hungry, he should have looked for food in his pantry or fridge or gotten grubhub to deliver something to him instead of driving under the influence to a local Wendy’s, where he ended up passing out in his car in the drive-thru lane, impeding traffic. Perhaps someone, a store manager or one of the people stuck in line behind him, should have made sure that he was alright and helped him park his car in a parking place so that he could sleep it off instead of calling the cops. Perhaps the cops should have recognized the man as being drunk and decided not to escalate the situation by arresting him but instead helping him to sleep it off safely. But the escalating option of all those decisions was chosen to the point where a low-key interaction between a drunk man and police officers suddenly ramped up to a much more violent situation when the man resisted arrest, stole an officer’s tazer, and fired it at him while attempting to flee the scene, where he was shot to death. And further bad decisions where made when people decided this was a good excuse to riot and burn the Wendy’s itself to the ground. There is no shortage of unfortunate and bad decisions that can be made by people who are clearly not thinking well. Life and death come at you fast, and sometimes it is hard to tell what the course of a life will take based on the decisions one makes.
Recently a Senator from Virginia made some comments about slavery in the United States that were less properly worded than they could and should have been. While apparently seeking to argue that no one forced the United States to practice slavery, he unfortunately garbled his words and made it seem as if the slavery in the United States was without parallel anywhere else in the world, itself an obvious misstatement of fact that others have parroted, an especially serious matter considering that slavery still exists in countries around the world and instead of arguing about an imagined and mythical past of pure evil American exceptionalism people could be standing up against human trafficking and the evils of slavery in the contemporary world as some of us do. Yet people and institutions made all kinds of decisions, which varied widely across the United States. Europeans rulers decided that they wanted profits that came from plantations and so they encouraged their elites to set up plantations in the New World where it was profitable for them to do so, and to encourage less destructive yeoman farming populations otherwise. When and where native populations proved insufficient as a source of labor, labor was sought elsewhere, from local powers who engaged in slaving wars and raids to freely trade with the European slave traders. A lot of evil decisions were freely made, but as is frequently the case the blame is widely shared. And that is not even considering the Arab slave trade that was going on at the same time and long after the European and American slave trade stopped for moral reasons. Moreover, people at the time made a variety of different decisions, some of them in favor of perpetuating and increasing the hold of slavery and some of them against it. To be just to others we must judge them by their deeds and not those of their fellows for which they had little or no influence, and we must judge them by the standards and moral universe of their own time, for which some people are still without excuse.
Why is it that we have such a poverty of decision-making skills or ability to recognize and respond to nuance? Why is it that we feel so confident in condemning people and looking down on others with contempt when we stand as equals or lessers to them? This is a difficult matter to ponder. This is not a problem that is isolated to any one segment of the population, but is present among those who fancy themselves to be well-educated and above the common herd as well as for ordinary people who make no pretensions at wisdom or intellect. The depth of our double standards as an age is breathtaking in its folly and stupidity. We regularly plead for the benefit of the doubt when we deny it to others. We fancy ourselves wise when our logic and understanding fail even basic and remedial levels of analysis. We try to argue away our responsibility based on our context while showing no understanding of the context that other people are dealing with. If we did not have double standards or self-serving standards we would have no standards at all, which might be an improvement in that it would make us less judgmental towards our peers and fellow sinners and hypocrites. Only those who have repented and turned to God and sought forgiveness for their evil ways can have the moral credibility to call on others to repent of their sins. And how much repenting is going on in our present evil world? Life comes at you fast, as does the day when we will be called to give an account of how we have wasted our time on this earth.