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The Selfishness of the ‘I Don’t Understand’ Crowd


Over at Powerline, John Hinderaker has an excellent post discussing the Left’s apparent inability to grapple with evil. It is worth reading in and of itself, but especially so for the brutal dismantling of an astonishingly silly essay by the Atlantic’s Megan Garber. I just had one thought to add to the author’s many worthwhile observations, that being that it strikes me that the calls for “introspection” and “understanding” and “complexity” that Hinderaker quotes, along with the insistence that “it’s hard to understand why anyone would do this,” are actually pretty selfish — if not full-on solipsistic. Fundamentally, what the self-appointed arbiters of compassion are saying is, “I don’t understand how anybody could behave like this, so we need to find a set of circumstances that might have driven me to do this.” And so they spend their time coming up with reasons and accusing anyone who thinks that such an exercise is futile of being unfeeling.

As you might expect, this is a futile exercise. Most people, very much including those smugly who call for national introspection, are simply not capable of blowing up children — whatever the provocation. “Alienation,” “loneliness,” the sequester, a culture of violence, video games, political anger, poverty — none of the reasons that are designed to prevent their authors from having to draw unpleasant conclusions is sufficient to provoke the vast majority of people into comitting acts of terror. (In fact, they rarely cause anything at all.) Moreover, those that propose those “root causes” as pretexts for others would recoil in abject horror if you were to imply that they might kill children on such a basis. Almost all people who put bombs next to 8-year-olds have something seriously wrong with them and/or are guided by twisted but sophisticated philosophies that have nothing to do with society’s alleged ills. It doesn’t really matter what it would have taken to get David Sirota or Deval Patrick or Megan Garber or Melissa Harris-Perry to murder children with explosives and ball bearings, because they’re never going to kill anyone; what matters is what it took to get the two brothers to do it. In the case of the latter, it seems, the answer is an unholy combination of the dreaded “I” word and very little else. This is the conclusion that, for fear of smashing its worldview, the Left dare not draw. So, instead, we get this:

One day, the brothers left it for Boston. And to understand why they did that — to have even a prayer of progressing towards a world where two more young men don’t do that — we have to embrace complexity.

Not really, no. We have to embrace honesty. If honesty takes us to complexity, then embrace complexity we must. Alas, as usual, the evidence points in the other direction.