The moral dimensions of my world formed early. At age 5, I was diagnosed with strabismus, or “lazy eye,” syndrome. One eye refused to focus and wandered off on its own. The easy explanation for a child is, “You have a bad eye.” Happily, the remedy was also easy. Surgery loosened the muscles of the “good” eye. I spent childhood behind a series of patches. After hours of eye exercises, I learned to see all over again. I’ve been in ethics ever since.
Good and evil should be as easy to tell apart as good eyes and bad eyes. The good guys wear white hats; the bad guys black. The Satan that floated around the edges of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was a clear image of evil. Wraithlike and pale with a sick child at its breast, Satan resembled an inverse icon of the Madonna and Child.
Yet nothing follows the script of a Hollywood screenplay. In real life good and evil often trick us or trade places. We see the drought-induced hunger in sub-Saharan Africa but miss the beggar on the corner. We righteously intervene in Iraq on behalf of the Kurds but remain unmoved by the genocide in Darfur. Before bankruptcy Enron vigorously supported Houston’s cultural life, even as it chipped away at its employee’s pension plans.
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