On Wishing Ill

Since John McCain’s recent cancer diagnosis, a perennial and predictable fight over human decency has broken out.

Disreputable figures such as Richard Spencer and sundry social justice advocates have expressed either joy or a lack of sympathy regarding McCain’s condition.

Reputable figures such as Ben Shapiro have expressed their support for McCain and disapproval of expressions of joy at his misfortune.

Despite this conflict’s breaking down along lines of reputability, sympathy for evil does not make one reputable, and honest acknowledgment that the world would be better off without someone does not make one disreputable.

Why, then, do respectable people refrain from, and condemn, taking joy in the suffering of evildoers? Why are the right people on the wrong side in this issue?

This misalignment is partially due to the vice of negativity. Excepting monsters, bad people aren’t worth focusing on, even when they’re leaving and taking their harm with them. The destruction of evil is secondary to the creation of good. Cretins like Spencer spend more time than necessary on evil because they relish destruction and don’t care about positive values. That puts them, accidentally, on the right side here.

The well-wishers don’t share this vice, but they don’t understand evil, either. Evil is not restricted to the avowedly immoral, which is rare. Evil is the choice to evade, but evasion almost always includes the evasion that one is evading. Just because an immoral person ignores the consequences of his immorality, and therefore honestly doesn’t know the evil he has wrought, doesn’t make him moral. It merely makes him additionally ignorant.

Most people, however, don’t understand the mechanism of evasion. They believe that people act on what they know, period. If one takes the time to introspect, one can see that this is not the case. People are capable of ignoring what they know. The failure to practice the introspection required to grasp this fact is the real cause of sympathy for the devil.

John McCain has made the country, the world, and my life worse through his actions. He has chipped away at free speech by promoting campaign finance restrictions. Anyone who claims to support the First Amendment, yet attempts to limit spending on political speech, is worse than an enemy of free speech. He’s a false defender who will open the gates to the censorious barbarians.

Does John McCain think he’s destroying free speech? No, but that doesn’t absolve him, because he knows that somewhere at the base of his thought, he’s being dishonest, and refusing to acknowledge the truth and revise his judgments in its light.

It is appropriate to feel and express some small satisfaction at the passing of such a man. Great joy at his death would indicate an unhealthy psychology, but only because it would indicate an unwarranted focus on the negative, not because it would violate human decency, which is not owed to the subhuman.

The killing of Che Guevara, or the accidental or natural death of Obama, would be events worth a little cheer, maybe a toast.

The death of McCain will be worth a terse “good riddance,” or nothing at all.