Jewish Journal

This Cruelty and Evil – Reflections from World Literature

I know that I share with most Americans the moral outrage that has been provoked by the deliberate inhumane policy of President Trump, Attorney General Sessions, the members of his administration, and those in Congress who justify the administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border.

Trump’s characterization of the people from Latin America coming into the United States as an “infestation” of the country, as if these people are vermin, is the language of white ultra-nationalist neo-Nazis who deny the humanity of the immigrant to justify their inhuman policy. This attitude is profoundly un-American and reminds us of the slave-holder’s characterization of peoples of color in this country.

I pray that Congress cancels this policy immediately because Trump is incapable of doing so.

I offer the following thoughts drawn from world literature about the nature of cruelty and evil:

The human being is the cruelest animal. -Friedrich Nietzsche

People speak sometimes about the “bestial” cruelty of human beings, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to beasts, no animal could ever be so cruel as humankind, so artfully, so artistically cruel. -Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I think it’s perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don’t know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away. Actually, if God is keeping out of sight, it’s because God is ashamed of its followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they’re responsible for promoting in God’s name. If I were God, I’d want nothing to do with them. -Philip Pullman

Thus it is that no cruelty whatsoever passes by without impact. Thus it is that we always pay dearly for chasing after what is cheap. -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things. -Terry Pratchett

All cruelty springs from weakness. -Seneca

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom. -Bertrand Russell

All cruel people describe themselves as paragons of frankness. -Tennessee Williams

I must be cruel only to be kind; Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind. -William Shakespeare

Some things are not forgivable. Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable. It is the most unforgiveable thing in my opinion, and the one thing in which I have never, ever been guilty. -Tennessee Williams

It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man. -Thomas Paine

Deliberate cruelty is unforgivable.-Tennessee Williams

Emotion without reason lets people walk all over you; reason without emotion is a mask for cruelty. -Nalini Singh

We can never be gods, after all–but we can become something less than human with frightening ease. -N.K. Jemisin

Cruelty knows that it has no need of histrionics. It can be as calm and quiet as it likes. It can sigh, or lightly shake its head in disbelief, or offer a sympathetic apology for whatever it must do. It can move slowly, methodically, inevitably. -Amor Towles

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. -Elie Wiesel

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. -Edmund Burke

Evil is like a shadow – it has no real substance of its own, it is simply a lack of light. You cannot cause a shadow to disappear by trying to fight it, stamp on it, by railing against it, or any other form of emotional or physical resistance. In order to cause a shadow to disappear, you must shine light on it. -Shakti Gawain

A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, an din either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury. -John Stuart Mill

One who condones evil is just as guilty as the one who perpetrates it. -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Some people are guilty; all are responsible. -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

He has told you, humankind, what is good and what God requires of you, to do justice, to love goodness, and to walk modestly with your God. -Micah 6:8