Today an anti-Semite took a gun and killed good people, fellow Americans.
I condemn this evil with all my heart.
Yet saying this, I pause. I do not want to posture. This is evil, but who cares about my opinon? Isn’t the evil obvious? Am I just putting myself on Team Virtue by saying what the powers that be would have me say?
I am saying what I know in the face of evil.
I am asked to say what I think on any number of topics and I do: Shakespeare, Plato’s view of science, boy bands from the 1990’s. I am allowed to opine, but sometimes it is best to stick to just the facts when giving an opinion that might be rash or even wicked.
Yet just now Americans should hesitate to rush our opinions out to the public. Most of us know so little. Authorities lie. Dissendents lie. What is the truth?
God help us.
When we do not know the facts, there is one infallible rule for a sensible person: Give no opinion when the facts are in doubt.
Do not speculate.
Do not guess.
Do not side with your team.
Wait and follow the evidence where it leads and good evidence collection takes time. To give an opinion is to risk adopting a position one will have to defend or apologize for when the data becomes obvious.
This is not just stupid, but might be hurtful.
There is no reason to opine in the moment, to shoot out opinions as if the Republic depended on our hottest take.
Here is a better rule: When times are bleak, do not opine. Stick to basic moral principles and enduring facts.
What are these enduring facts?
First, there has been and is a serious global problem with anti-Semitism. “The Jews” are blamed for everything and have been subject numerous times to unparalleled persecution, discrimination, and genocide.
I must stand in solidarity with Jewish people.
Second, the direct cause of an evil deed is known quickly. Secondary causes are harder to spot and always more contentious.
What are the secondary causes of any particular murderous act? That cannot be known quickly. Bad people can have many triggers for the bad they do, yet they are the bad actor. To opine quickly on the secondary causes is to minimize the primary and direct cause.
The long term, enduring, hatred of the Jewish people has had, is having, and will have murderous consequences. Surely, I can pause and at least focus on this fact before opining about what is uncertain. Hatred of Jewish people is tolerated on the fringes of the left, right, the irreligious, and the religious.
Saying this is wrong is not useless: it is standing for what we know. Deeper motives or triggers are more dubious, so silence is an excellent idea.
A good rule is to convict and sentence the primary actor, before looking to blame secondary ones. Let’s find John Wilkes Booth, condemn his murderous actions, and then examine what motivated him.
Finally, I do not need to know more to know that once again Jewish people have died due to hatred that is not new or (sadly) even surprising.
What do I know?
Jewish people are hated irrationally. This has led to monstrous evils in my lifetime and the worst evils of human history in my dad’s lifetime.
I must stand in solidarity with my fellow citizens who are Jewish.
This much I know. The world does not need my speculation nor my opinions. Some would say the world does not need me to add what I know to what any sane, moral person knows.
Yet here I am writing every day and so I must tell the truth for the sake of my soul.
To be silent about an opinion is wise, to be silent about a truth is wicked.