Rabbi Kushner asked a question that’s become part of the lexicon: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” He tried to answer that over several hundred pages, but for me he never quite did/ Nor do I think he thought he did. But it’s to his credit he admits there is this thing called “evil” in the world. Shiva, Lucifer, Libido, Terrorism — whatever you call it, it’s palpable and it’s out there.

But here’s the really evil thing about evil. So nuanced, we often don’t know hoe to identify it. Unlike Hollywood’s offertory of garish creatures and malevolent forces. the words of Shakespeare and Solzhenitsyn capture it best:

* “The evil men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”
* “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

There are directors like Oliver Stone who seek to put a face on evil >> Platoon, Wall Street, JFK, Natural Born Killers. Nixon, Wall Street Never Sleeps. And novelists like Stephen King with >> The Shining, Firestarter, Dreamcatcher, Rose Madder.

Then there is a man whose understanding of evil put him in telephone touch with wherever it was and with the world’s greatest military arsenal to confront it: Retiring Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. What better place to address the subject of good and evil then the University of Notre Dame where in his graduation address he said: “….if history and religion teach us anything, it is that there will always be evil in the world; people bent on aggression, oppression, satisfying their greed for wealth and power and territory; or determined to impose an ideology based on the subjugation of others….I have always been an advocate of soft power…but in the 21st C, hard power — the size, strength and global reach of the US military — will be the ultimate guarantee against the success of aggressors, dictators and terrorists.”

A grateful salute, sir…!

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