This is always a good question to ask. There’s a very wry bit by the British comedy duo Mitchell and Webb (no close relation, I think) in which they portray German SS officers on the Russian Front. One asks, “Are we the baddies?” and then notes how they have skulls on their uniforms, and how that’s never a good sign.
I’m currently touring Civil Rights sites in the USA, and although not all the horrors visited upon those who fought for their rights were done by men with skulls on their uniforms, there were clear signs of “bad guy” behaviors that should have been reviewed and then abandoned by those who did not want to be actual bad guys. Keep in mind that merely fighting other bad guys alone is not sufficient evidence of being a good guy. There are lots of times that bad guys fight other bad guys.
So, here’s a checklist of things that bad guys do. If you are doing them, please stop. If people on your political side are doing them, please get them to stop or, failing that, disavow their extremism vocally and oppose it at every turn, so as not to have your own political position undermined by its association with bad guys. Now, the list:
1. INTIMIDATION… this is a big one. When, in response to a reasoned argument or appeal to mercy, one chooses instead to emphasize one’s power of one form or another, that is intimidation. Bad guys are always doing this thing, and it underlines the lack of justification for a particular position.
2. VIOLENCE… this one is frequently employed when the intimidation fails. If one has to initiate aggression in order to maintain one’s views and preferences, one likely has views and preferences that are wrong. At any rate, concessions won through violence are either tainted, temporary, or both. Winning through violence does not imply that one is right: it merely indicates one is perhaps better-armed and/or more desperate and inhuman in the application of that violence.
3. MISREPRESENTATION… this is insidious, as one appears to be offering one thing, but instead proffers another and then uses that confusion to entrap another person. If this happens accidentally, good people resolve the confusion and apologize sincerely without using the language of the contract or agreement to extract unwilling concessions from the other party. Bad guys do this stuff intentionally most of the time and, should they find a bonus area for entrapment, seize upon that, as well.
Individuals are, of course, capable of much more bad stuff. These three things, however, exemplify what groups of bad guys will do in order to further their agenda and increase their power over others. Take a possible scenario with individuals out of the picture and consider instead a group conflict. Good guys can disagree on a political point of view: they do so without resorting to intimidation, violence, or misrepresentation. An opponent is not necessarily a bad guy.
However, as I noted earlier, if one’s side is doing any of the above things, one may be on the same side as the bad guys. If this is not desirable, consider either a gradual or abrupt shift away from supporting that side. In a recent example, both Trump supporters that initiate violence with protesters and protesters that initiate violence with Trump supporters are bad guys. Protesters and Trump supporters can both be good guys, provided they abstain from intimidation, violence, and misrepresentation.
Why does this make a difference? Well, I hold the view that a person’s actions determine a path that person will follow beyond this mortal existence. There is a value to being a “good guy”, no matter what suffering one endures in this life. For those who built up their power through intimidation, violence, and/or misrepresentation, shame, regret, and sorrow await them in the eternity to come. In that sense, there is great value, nobility, and dignity in heeding the words of those who said that mercifulness, nonviolence, and honesty were principles by which to live one’s life.
So, take some time and ask the question, “Are we the bad guys?” If not, hooray, you’re on the path towards light, love, and joy. If you are, then you have a crisis of the soul ahead of you, either now, later in your life, or when you’re dead and can’t do much about it.
Choose this day whom you will serve.