This thought dropped in on me again last night as I watched a documentary about the treatment/internment of Nisei in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. The attack prompted a willy-nilly, outraged and in some sense understandable rounding up and interning of anyone who looked Japanese at the time of the attack.
I watched the show and felt my 20/20 hindsight kicking in.
Every sweeping and sometimes 'democratic' action has collateral damage. Innocent or guilty, a generalized guilt was imputed to those linked in any way to the perfidious Japanese. Mob rule... if we all agree, that's democratic; democracy is a good thing; therefore interning those tarred with the 'enemy' brush deserved it ... no need to think about it.
I found myself, not for the first time, suspecting egregious agreement. Easy in hindsight ... though it did make me wonder a bit about the Me Too movement of late or the clerical abuse in the Roman Catholic church, among others. So much that is innocent and beyond undoing is thrown to the wolves in an effort to punish the guilty. Lord knows the pain is real and wracking, but is that an excuse for forgetting a variety of less-crystal-clear backgrounds? ... as for example that the bird-dance of sex is, well, fun or part of the human skein ... yes, yes ... and potentially cruel and manipulative.
So on the one hand, I distrust what often passes for democracy. Someone's got to straighten out this easy-peasy group hug.
And that someone is, as often as not, those group-hugging in the matter of exclusivity. Dumb-bunny hoorahs need a few smarts and there is always someone around to claim those smarts ... often to the point of demagoguery and dictatorship.
So, on the other hand, I distrust exclusivity and smarts.
As a personal matter, as I say -- not just as a classroom philosophy. Everyone would like a rock-solid solution and direction, but it simply does not exist: You cannot embrace the honey if you cannot likewise embrace the raw wrecking ball of the shit. Those laying claim to exclusivity -- America is the best; smart is better than dumb; a college education counts; a 17-year-old war in Afghanistan is good for a few more years, etc. ... ah, a rock-solid support and applause section in which participants seldom do the bleeding.
Looking back on the Nisei and their travails, I am once again horrified. This...is...wrong. But so many agree that suddenly democracy/mob rule/man is a social animal is suspect. And likewise suspect are those who toot their own Pied Piper horns: "We'll make it better/kinder/more compassionate ... maybe."
I dislike the stupidities that hurt others, which, as often as not, means the intelligently-confected bits of wisdom. Winston Churchill (is often said without proof to have) observed, "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the rest" in an effort to cover the collateral damage that comes with every good and caring idea. It didn't work.
Bit by bit, I slip back to my own best (which is not to say it is best) experience: Attention and responsibility are the best companions. To agree is OK. To disagree is OK. But to agree merely because others agree is highly suspect and is bound to leave you in tears. Naturally, an assured (winner's) payoff is longed for when taking up a cause or course of action. I want to be at peace with my own oh-so-peacefully-inclined decisions. Gimme the silver bullet. Gimme plaudits and hugs.
But only attention and responsibility can do that ... and that not fershur. If things are a crap shoot, it's better to make it your own crap shoot and not just some warm and fuzzy classroom crap shoot. True, it's exhausting. True you can never get it "right." But you can stand a little straighter for having owned what you have chosen to own ... the action from which there is no turning back.
Yes, I do things because I think they are right. But likewise, I do things -- often the very same things -- that I know are wrong.