The past week revealed that a vile ugliness permeates America. Is it a hate that can be erased with love? Or is it pure evil that calls for something more?
Accounts of the scene in Charlottesville last Saturday say the car came to a stop before it sped up and plowed into the crowd of counter protestors. For a moment then, the driver, James Alex Fields Jr., had time to think about what he intended to do.
What went through Fields’ mind as he sat in his Dodge Challenger? Did he think he was a brave and admirable soldier charging onto the battlefield to fight for his nation? Did he imagine himself dying and becoming a martyr for the cause of white nationalism?
Once he committed to driving forward, did Fields go numb and into autopilot? Did his hands sweat? His body tremble? Or was he cool and calculated, well aware of what he was doing?
And what went through his mind at the point of impact? Could he hear the screams and cries, the thud of bodies against the car? Did he see the faces of the victims as they bounced off the windshield?
Was he scared when he sped backwards or feeling victorious? Did he realize he was dragging bodies and clothes with him? What did he plan to do next? Did he even plan the act at all? Or was it a spontaneous combustion, sparked by opportunity and the tension of hate in the air?
Those questions may seem inappropriately morbid. But if Fields, for even a second, questioned the right and wrong of his actions, then what he did was an act of conscious hate. But if he had no doubt at all—if his act was as involuntary as a beat of the heart—then what he did was more than hate. It was evil.
Society, by way of psychiatry and psychology, tells us that hate is a learned feeling which compels people to commit bad acts. That theory suggests hate can be eliminated by teaching something different, presumably love.
Neuroscience now says hate is caused by a malformation in the brain—something you can detect on MRIs and, perhaps one day, remove through surgery or treatment.
Those advances in psychology and science, as important and valid as they may be, have led to a dilution of the concept of evil. In fact, many say the concept is archaic—irrelevant in the modern world where the supernatural is debunked and the spiritual is increasingly challenged.
Still, the prevailing philosophy today is that we all come into this world as innately good, innocent, loving beings. Somehow we “absorb” hate by living around it. It rubs off on us. Blackens our hearts and minds.
But what if that premise is incomplete? What if some people are just born evil? In the yin and yang of the universe, if people are born good, mustn’t some also be born evil as a natural counterbalance?
For some reason, society struggles with calling a person evil or with even acknowledging that evil may exist. Yet many animals can instantly sense evil in a person, as can highly intuitive people. Like love, you can’t describe or define or touch evil, but you know it when you see it.
So, what if James Fields was born evil? What if all the love in the world could never keep him from doing hateful things? What if evil is his spiritual or karmic “mission” and not just an aberration of his brain or personality? What if he didn’t even know that what he felt was evil?
If Fields had a moment of doubt before, during, or after his murderous act, then he knew the difference between right and wrong, love and hate. He may deserve to be considered a good person driven by life experiences or a malformed brain to act evilly.
But if Fields acted without doubt…if he was exhilarated while driving into the crowd and watching bodies fly…if he felt no horror or regret as he retreated from the scene but only triumphant pride…then that’s not just hate. That’s the total absence of good. It’s evil personified.
Does it matter whether Fields is a victim of hate or a soldier of evil? For the most part, no. Either way, he will still be prosecuted and sentenced to the full extent of the law. Science and medicine will have another “perfect subject” to study in their search for the origins of hate and the depths of insanity. Heather Heyer will still be dead, and others will still carry physical and mental scars all the days of their lives.
The rest of the country will move onward. We will be more attentive to the reasons for hate and the crimes committed because of it. But will we be more awake to the reality of evil? For whether people are born evil or become so by circumstance, the fact is truly evil people exist, and they are invading our lives today. They are attacking us both politically and, in the sense of our stamina, spiritually.
Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, wrote a lesser known book called People of the Lie, in which he says:
“There really are people and institutions made up of people, who respond with hatred in the presence of goodness and would destroy the good insofar as it is in their power to do so…As has been described of the devil in religious literature, they hate the light and instinctively will do anything to avoid it, including attempting to extinguish it.”
Donald Trump and those who sit at his feet are attempting to extinguish the light in America. There is no cure for this evil. No psychotherapy, no medical treatment, no love or prayers for the soul can stop it. There is only acceptance of its existence, rejection of its right to prevail, and commitment to fight until it’s eradicated.
Now is the time to see the big picture for what it is: we are engaged in a cosmic battle between good and evil. No person who thinks of his or herself as good can ignore this battle or watch it from the sidelines. We must each of us fight in ways true to our own strengths and abilities. But fight we must. Let’s hope we can do so without any more bloodshed.
Photo credit: Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress/The Washington Post