Throughout the past and present, acts of definite wrong had been committed with or without a deliberate wrong in mind. September 11, 2001, serves merely as one of the most recent large-scale example of an atrocity taking place as a result of a misconception. Islamic Fundamentalist terrorists, driven by dogma that they twisted to justify murder, acted to destroy the lives of thousands of innocents, who had absolutely nothing to do with the vague notion of “American imperialism.”
According to the pseudo-Islam practiced by those radicals, oppression, persecution, terror, conformity, and fear were all “good,” while freedom of expression, competition, and opportunity have been labeled as “evil.” That, of course, is an obvious reversal of values as far as virtue is concerned. It was this reversal that led to the World Trade Center tragedy. Yet the act of wrong, the murder of civilians, was intentional.
What can we learn from this tragedy? That thinking of good and evil as relative terms can result in catastrophic consequences. In human societies across the world there is an absolute good and an absolute evil, with fine boundaries defining the two.
Many people seem to look at the good/evil spectrum in terms of shades of gray, not whites or blacks, which creates a wide fuzzy line that is usually deemed acceptable by such thinkers, although within it are contained some of the least moral deeds. The adherents of the “fuzzy line” theory often excuse acts ranging anywhere from disrespect to genocide, blaming the act on the environment in which the perpetrator had grown up or simply saying that “everyone has their own perception of good and evil.”
This relativism leads to a lack of punishment for those guilty of horrific deeds, and thus to a continuing proliferation of evil until it nearly blends in with mundane society. Walter M. Miller, Jr., in his novel, A Canticle for Leibowitz, eloquently explains this: “If a man has committed an act and is ignorant of its wrong, then this ignorance may excuse the man, but it may not excuse the act. And we would be committing wrong by permitting that act to be carried out.”
Therefore, to dismiss an act of definite evil as a result of attempting to see where the other person was coming from is not at all the proper approach. Numerous German army officers had, for example, worked in Nazi Death Camps during World War II and carried out the killing of millions of innocents. To execute many of those pawns of evil would be folly, since they did not mastermind the operation nor know of the degree to which they were violating every principle of virtue that can possibly exist, yet their act was a definite evil, and those truly responsible, the leaders of the National-Socialist Party, have been rightfully put to death following the Nuremberg Trials. The ones that initiated the evil knowing that their future act would be immoral are the ones who must be punished for willingly proceeding with murder and forcing others to assist their monstrous schemes.