Good ‘n Evil

 He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

One of the great gifts of growing up in the South is knowing that there is Good and then there is Evil.

Good was cleaning the house and fixing supper for Mama.

Good was saying my prayers, reading my Bible, and going to church on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Evil was slapping my sister, bossing my brother, and talking back to the bus driver, or worse, Mama.

Of course some Good was greater than others, just as some Evil was.

It was a greater Good to go see Ms. Chris, an invalid who couldn’t get out of bed. She wasn’t simply a shut-in. She was a Layed-up Shut-In, who made a living by selling light bulbs via the phone. And the monies her daughter — a stripper — sometimes gave her.

That Ms. Chris’ daughter made her living stripping was bad enough but what made her actions Evil is that she rarely came to see her poor mama, so it was up to the goodness of the neighbors to check after Ms. Chris. Mama sent me to see after her most everyday. I’d fix her lunch and help her find numbers in the phone book. I’d make sure the air conditioner in Ms. Chris’s trailer was turned on and  running good, lest she sweat to death in that bed of hers. 

It was in the living room, that bed. I knew a lot of people in my growing up years who kept their beds in the living room. Couches seemed unnecessary for those people. Visitors just sat on the foot of the bed. Or in a nearby chair.

It was a great Evil when Uncle Joe beat my aunt, or kicked my mama in the gut.

It doesn’t sound good but it sure seemed Good to chase Uncle Joe out of the trailer park with a handgun before he hurt somebody else.

It was a great Evil when the bus driver took two junior high girls to a motel, drugged them and proceeded to do all manner of indecent things to them.

It was great Good when he was arrested for that.

It was a Good when the schools were integrated and white kids and black kids no longer had to pretend that the other didn’t exist.

It was an Evil when students were cut in the high school parking lot simply because they were white, or black.

It was a Good when the smartest boy in Latin class — a black boy — helped me with my homework.

It was an Evil when another black boy slapped me across the face and threatened to throw me out the second-story window at the high school.

It was a Good when Dr. King led the marches on Selma.

It was a Great Evil when Dr. King was shot dead in Memphis.

Or maybe it wasn’t because I grew up in the South that I knew there was a Good, and an Evil.

Maybe it’s because I was a child.

And for children, the difference between Good and Evil can be pretty cut and dry: Good is all about doing Good. Evil is all about doing Evil. 

I don’t know what it it like to be that person who isn’t sure whether Evil exists or not, but I spoke to someone once who said they hadn’t formulated any clear thoughts on Evil, or the nature of it.

I was kind of surprised but I tried not to show that.

After all, misjudging others can be a slippery-slope toward Evil.

I told this person how I think Evil is a step down into a darkened basement. You are so focused on that one little step in front of you, that you don’t realize that you are in utter darkness until you’ve reached the dark basement and can’t find your way out.

Perhaps, they replied. “I do believe that what we give our attention to grows.”

Dr. King gave his attention to fighting against all manner of Evil, and doing all manner of Good. But even he had a mix of the two in him, just like me, just like you.

You have any thoughts on the nature of Evil? Would Evil exist if there wasn’t someone around to embody it?

Would Good?






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