Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Late, Great Michael Kelly

I Dare You

"At some point soon after Sept. 11, listening to Yale students and professors offer rationalizations for the mass murders (poverty in the Middle East, U.S. foreign policy, etc.) Hornstein had an epiphany. Some things were just wrong. "Just as we should pass absolute moral judgment in the case of rape, we should recognize that some actions are objectively bad, despite differences in cultural standards and values. To me, hijacking planes and killing thousands of civilians falls into this category."

Hurrah! A breakthrough! A moral judgment! Yes, Ms. Hornstein, murdering thousands of people in fact is bad. But wait. A lifetime of instruction is not sloughed off quite so easily as all that; Hornstein's bold moral judgment is not quite so bold as all that. Look at her conclusion again: "To me," it begins. To me. Hijacking planes and killing thousands is not objectively bad after all. It is objectively bad only in Hornstein's opinion. Indeed, she rushes to reassure on this point: "Others may disagree." Others may disagree. And she adds: "It is less important to me where people choose to draw the line than it is that they are willing to draw it at all." Oh, dear.

It is astonishing, really. Here you have an obviously smart, obviously moral person trying nobly and painfully to think her way out of the intellectual and moral cul-de-sac in which the addled miseducation of her life has placed her -- and she cannot, in the end, bear to do it. She cannot judge.

Ms. Hornstein, push on. Go the last mile. Go out on the limb of judgment. Mass murder is indeed objectively bad -- and not just in your opinion. Others may disagree -- but they are wrong. Indeed, they are (shut the door for this part, lest the hall monitors catch us) morally wrong. Ms. Hornstein, it is not less important where people choose to draw the line as long as they will draw it somewhere; that puts you right back with your silly professors.

Draw the line, Ms. Hornstein. Draw it where you know it belongs. Dare to judge."
Well said, sir.

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