News / USA

    Americans Debate Concept of Evil in Relation to Terrorism, Shootings

    Americans Debate Whether Terrorism, Shootings Are Evili
    X
    May 09, 2013 11:47 PM
    Many people in the United States - including the president - view violent events such as the Boston Marathon bombings and school shootings as part of a struggle between good and evil. This has led to a debate about whether that view helps - or prevents - Americans from understanding why these things happen. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
    Americans Debate Whether Terrorism, Shootings Are Evil
    Many people in the United States, including the president, view violent events such as school shootings and the Boston Marathon bombings as part of a struggle between good and evil.  This has led to a debate about whether that view helps or prevents Americans from understanding why these things happen.

    A few days after the marathon bombings, President Barack Obama spoke at an interfaith service in Boston.

    "You’ve shown us, Boston, that in the face of evil, Americans will lift up what’s good," Obama said.

    He is not the first U.S. president to use the word "evil."  

    Ronald Reagan used the word to label the Soviet Union. "To ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire," Reagan said.

    President George W. Bush used the word to describe Saddam Hussein's Iraq, along with Iran and North Korea. "States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil," Bush said.

    During the recent National Prayer Day sponsored by groups from the religious right, devotees gathered on Capitol Hill and prayed to God to vanquish what they see as evil in Washington and the world.

    "We can all do things that bring harm, and when you take that on a worldwide level, you have some pretty massive evil that can take place," said Dave Butts, president of Harvest Prayer Ministries.

    But what about the religious left?  Evangelical pastor Jim Wallis, an anti-war activist during the Vietnam era, criticized the invasion of Iraq.  But, he says the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States were evil.

    "Evil is real.  Evil is very real.  How we respond to it can help overcome it, or just extend it and make it grow exponentially," Wallis said.

    It may be correct to describe horrific violence as evil.  But some people worry that it prevents Americans from having a serious conversation about the causes of terrorism and gun violence.

    "For me, evil is what I call a 'black hole' concept," said Phillip Cole, a professor of applied philosophy at the University of South Wales and author of "The Myth of Evil."

    "It kind of blocks our understanding.  It prevents us from going any farther.  It brings the conversation to a halt," Cole said.

    Some scholars say that evil as a category can be useful.  They say it can help the human mind know whether to respond to something it does not like with moral outrage or ordinary displeasure.

    But Cole says when people attribute evil to an event, they mythologize it and turn it into a Hollywood-like epic struggle.

    And that, he adds, can make perceived opponents appear to be monsters.

    "Therefore, it's enormously dangerous to identify people as evil, because it opens the door to doing terrible things.  And very innocent people have been harmed by that," Cole said.

    Cole says even in the Holocaust, the real horror was that it was carried out by ordinary people.

    For many Americans, the more that becomes known about the two brothers accused of carrying out the Boston bombings, the more their motives seem to defy categorizing.

    President Obama also referred to evil in a 2009 speech when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.

    "The general theme of the Nobel speech says that this is a dangerous world, where real evil exists out there," Obama said.

    He later appeared on the television program PBS Newshour to explain his remarks. Critics said his defense of America's military response to terrorism in the Nobel lecture was the same reasoning his predecessor used to justify the war in Iraq.

    You May Like

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora