Principles must be upheld even - or especially - when your own allies breach them.Every time I get inundated with some Theocratic Wingnut BS, and wonder whether my ideological home is on the Left or Right, something like this gets said. Not always by someone on the Right, Norm Geras, an outright Marxist, has been known to say exactly the same thing. But more often on the Right than the Left.
There are real evildoers out there. I can think of a few well-known organisations on the Right of US politics that lie and persecute not out of conviction, but because "it's not personal, just business". It's how they get the donations flowing in from the rubes. I can think of many on the Left likewise.
But the vast majority on either side of politics are active not for personal gain, nor out of malice, but the opposite. They give a damn, and try to do the best they can according to their own lights. All too few of them realise that the majority of their opponents - with many exceptions, but still the majority - are doing the same thing.
Most dangerous are the Utopian Idealists, the ones so convinced of their own righteousness that no enormity is beyond them.
Of course, some say they're taken out of context. Only joking. From the NYT:
Mr. Ayers, who in 1970 was said to have summed up the Weatherman philosophy as: ''Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, kill your parents, that's where it's really at,'' is today distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. And he says he doesn't actually remember suggesting that rich people be killed or that people kill their parents, but ''it's been quoted so many times I'm beginning to think I did,'' he said. ''It was a joke about the distribution of wealth.'Yeah, right. Sure it was.
In 1967 he met Ms. Dohrn in Ann Arbor, Mich. She had a law degree from the University of Chicago and was a magnetic speaker who often wore thigh-high boots and miniskirts. In 1969, after the Manson family murders in Beverly Hills, Ms. Dohrn told an S.D.S. audience: ''Dig it! Manson killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, then they shoved a fork into a victim's stomach.''
In Chicago recently, Ms. Dohrn said of her remarks: ''It was a joke. We were mocking violence in America. Even in my most inflamed moment I never supported a racist mass murderer.''
But even then, some see what they're doing, eventually.
''Fugitive Days'' does have moments of self-mockery, for instance when Mr. Ayers describes watching ''Underground,'' Emile De Antonio's 1976 documentary about the Weathermen. He was ''embarrassed by the arrogance, the solipsism, the absolute certainty that we and we alone knew the way,'' he writes. ''The rigidity and the narcissism.''The thing is... such genuine demons are the exception, rather than the rule. Most on the Left at the time were not malignant narcissists. They were good people, who saw a cause they could not just ignore, and did what they could for that cause.
Just like the activist members of the Young Pioneers. Just like the Komsomolsk. And yes, just like the HitlerJugend and Bund Deutscher Mädel and even the Peace Corps.
It is so farnarckling easy to pervert young people of good will into doing horrible things for The Cause. Or wonderful things.
The important thing is to never be inhuman. Never be hypocritical. Never accept something in your own side that you'd criticise the other side for.