...Fred Nietzsche, that is.
As you may or may not know, last week was the Season 5 finale of "SouthLAnd." In an interview he did before it aired, Ben McKenzie discusses his character (Ben Sherman). He says, if I recall correctly, that Officer Sherman has come to see himself as the arbiter of good and evil.
My daughter Bridget -- student of philosophy -- upon thinking about this, created a meme which she sent to Mr. McKenzie via Twitter. This meme involved a photo of the book "Beyond Good And Evil -- Prelude To A Philosophy Of The Future" by Friedrich Nietzsche. The meme also included the words, "Ben Sherman's Slippery Slope." She sent this meme to Mr. McKenzie accompanied by Mr. Nietzsche's statement, "He who fights with monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster."
I guess this pleased Mr. McKenzie because he Retweeted it.
And that got me to reflecting on political relationships in our country.
Bridget is, in a nutshell, a traditional Catholic. Ben McKenzie appears to be, in a nutshell, a progressive. Yet, they seem to agree that proclaiming oneself to be the "arbiter of good and evil" is a bad idea.
This got me to thinking about conservatives and progressives, in general, and how they view each other. And how they might be misunderstanding one another. And how -- even though there are issues on which they will probably never agree -- they might be able to stop fearing each other. Because I do see a lot of fear, of the progressives by the conservatives, and of the conservatives by the progressives. And it makes me sad. How can we, after all, move forward as a country if we fear each others "agendas?"
This is where the Ben and Bridget thing can, perhaps, help us gain a better understanding of one another.
The conservatives I have spent time with (most of whom are traditional Catholics and other varieties of Christians) feel that the progressives are making themselves the arbiters of good and evil -- especially on the issues of abortion and gay rights. Most religious conservatives see God as the ultimate arbiter of good and evil and react negatively to the progressive view, which they see as human beings trying to take the place of God. Many of them see the progressive view as erring in the same way that Adam and Eve erred in the Garden of Eden -- pridefully believing that they could decide right and wrong for themselves, disdaining the Lord's ultimate authority in this area.
The more progressive people I have spent time with, though, have expressed to me the following idea: They feel that the conservatives/Christians/Catholics are making THEMSELVES the ultimate arbiters of good and evil by trying to impose their belief system on the rest of society. They get a little freaked out when they hear the Pope or the Bishops or other religious people telling them what they should believe and do based on (what appears to them) to be their personal religious opinions. These progressives -- especially secular ones, but even some religious ones that I have known -- believe that there needs to be adequate space for non-religious people to make their own moral choices, without being pressured by either religious authority or religious individuals.
So, to me, this is how people of seemingly very different worldviews can hold a common idea -- in this case, the idea that it is not wise for an individual to view himself as the ultimate arbiter of good and evil -- but how they can view that idea from different perspectives. And if these different people can come to understand one another better, then maybe we can converse with each other instead of fearing each other.
Maybe Bridget, Ben, and Fred have shown us a little bit of the way forward.