My God! What an absolutely stunning example of Baroque architecture! This church, called the Frauenkirche, is just so gorgeous. Look at the way the dome soars into the night sky, the contrast of light and shadow over the facades, and the stunning use of off colors like that. There are some absolutely stunning old pictures of it that truly show off it’s beauty.
Wait, shit, sorry, let me find a better one.
Oh, sorry, wait…
Sorry, it seems that most of the pictures I can find are all of this beautiful work of architecture blown completely to bits. You see, the Fraunekirche is in Dresden, Germany. If you don’t understand what’s significant about that, lemme explain it to you in what for me is a startlingly brief recounting of a major historical event.
You see, in January of 1945, the Allies were concerned about the ability for the Germans to keep fighting back. The Battle of the Bulge was winding down, but the Nazis were still grinding up tens of thousands of Soviet soldiers at a time on the Eastern Front. The British came up with a plan to keep the Germans from sending forces to fight the Soviets, cripple their supply lines, and destroy their civilian morale by blocking them from fleeing the front lines. They would bomb the ever loving hell out of their cities. From the 13th of February to the 15th, the Allies bombed the hell of Dresden, the last largely untouched city in Germany. Over 20,000 civilians were killed in the firestorm, mostly by suffocating in their shelters, which they couldn’t leave because of the fires. The “Old Town”, dating back to the early 13th Century was devastated. 12,000 homes, 22 culturally and historically significant structures, 19 civilian hospitals, 39 schools, the zoo, 19 military hospitals, and the water treatment plant were all destroyed. The destruction was so bad, that Churchill, who had requested the bombings, distanced himself from them. The city destroyed in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, was this very city, which he himself was present as a POW for.
Almost immediately, the intelligentsia of the Allies felt queasy about it. A city that was considered one the most beautiful and cultured in all of Europe was bombed into ruins, for what was no clear purpose. Formal inquiries were conducted, reviews were performed, and much soul searching was undertaken with a lot of moral hand wringing. In the end, the Allied leadership cleared their name (of course). In the end, the Allies had bad intelligence, made a poor assessment of the targets, and ended up not influencing the outcome of the war. While many historians and legal scholars have called the bombing everything from unfortunate to immoral, to a legitimate war crime, no one ever faced trial or punishment for it. It wasn’t even the deadliest bombing the Allies would carry out in the war, just weeks later over 100,000 citizens of Tokyo would be killed in the deadliest bombing of all time, including the nuclear bombs.
Why do I even bring this up? What the hell does this have to do with the title of this? And why haven’t I even tried to be funny yet?
Because sometimes, being evil, immoral, and cruel is the right thing to do. Going against the basic moral principles we hold dear sometimes yields much more morally acceptable results than if we had stuck them. But what does that have to do with Indiana?
You see, in Indiana, the legislature passed a law that made deliberate, targeted, and selective discrimination against LGBT people perfectly legal. And because they did that, people who are moral must now act immorally. All of us in America; Hell, if not the Western World or even entire world, are taught to believe in the freedom of conscious, choice, belief, and association. If you don’t like gay people, we can’t force you to like them. If you want to not believe in a God or Gods, we wont force you to. You don’t want to be around a particular minority, we don’t require your mandatory teamwork. That is your choice. You can even flee to the woods of Montana and write anti-civilization screeds on an old Smith-Corona by lantern light and we wont stop you…until you stop paying taxes of course. But then again, sometimes we will force you.
We tell businesses they have the right to refuse service, except when it comes to race, gender, or other cases. How can we say, “You can conduct your business however you want,” but also say, “Except you can’t run it like this,” at the same time? Simple, we never hold all things morally equal. On one hand, I feel that a business owner can tell anyone they want to get the hell out of their store, and to keep people like them out. Its their business, they can run it how they see fit. They have the right of choice do they not? Do we not give them a voice in our government by allowing them to contribute to campaigns and lobby congress? But, at the same time, how is it right that they can exclude entire groups of people because of a belief or ideology? Just because you are black/gay/Democrat/Muslim, etc. is no reason to have the right of equal access to goods and services that benefit from the protection of the theoretically unbiased populace and government denied to you. (Holy run on sentence Batman!). So what holds more weight; the right for a business owner to conduct his business and affairs by the rights of their own conscious, or the right of equal treatment in the society? At one time, it was fine to deny service along those lines, that’s what Jim Crow was all about. The famous lunch counter sit-ins, the bus boycotts. Those were about the idea that if we are equal in the eyes of the whole, we cannot be unequal in one of it’s parts. And that’s what is happening now in Indiana and in other states.
In 2013, an small business owner in Oregon refused to make a cake for a lesbian couples wedding because they felt it was immoral. It was finally determined in a court of law they were wrong. In the process, they will have to pay fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, their business has shut down, and they have been on the receiving end of public mockery, threats, and harassment. In Indiana, a pizza parlor was harassed and mocked online, having its online reviews trashed by people angry they said they wouldn’t serve food for a gay wedding, and this belief was legal under Indiana law. In the meantime, both of these small business owners have had their dreams of owning a business ripped away. Their rights to think how they wanted, to believe how they wanted, to make their own means, to prosper were ripped away. They have been bullied by people who decry bullying. Harassed by people who denounce harassment. People who demand the right to be free to express who they are taking away the ability for these people to express who they are. We say often, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to watch it,” to excuse offensive shows, but we demand the right to walk into any random store and purchase goods from a private business.
And you know what? That’s perfectly okay.
You see, in order to prevent more dead American, British, and Russian soldiers, to free conquered lands from the Nazis who had massacred millions of innocent people, to end the privation and suffering on the home fronts, and bring peace back to Europe, the Allies acted immorally, and killed 20,000 civilians. At Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Tokyo, tens of thousands died to show the Japanese that we would slaughter them to win peace. Yes, we moralized these deaths. Yes, we lied to ourselves. And most importantly, we acted hypocritically, going against our own values in order to achieve an end. But those ends were morally more acceptable than the other options. We had to put one value above another. A few had to be punished and suffer so that even more could prosper and thrive.
It might offend some of you that I’m trying to say that the bombings of innocent civilians in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, and others is the equivalent of fighting for LGBT or racial equality, but you would be wrong. By demanding the right to marry as an LGBT person, we are telling whole entire religions…who do have the right to believe how they want, that their beliefs don’t matter. They have to shut up and deal if they find it immoral. We are forcing our beliefs on them. But if we believe all people are equal, we have to ask ourselves, if the idea of being equal is more important than respecting someones beliefs. Either way, we are telling someone, that their beliefs don’t count. We do this every single day in our existence.
Some of these decisions of which value is greater are trivial. “Do I want to screw my co-workers by lying and playing hooky from work, or do I want disappoint my kid by not taking him to the ball game today?” Some of them are a matter of life or death, “Do I kill this guy here in order to keep him from killing all those other people, when I abhor killing?” Most of them will be trivial, but sometimes they’re grand. We do this without thinking or self awareness, which is the problem though. It causes us to lose perspective. When we do it, we’re being righteous. When they’re doing it, they’re being wicked. In our lives, we will be both.
By stepping back and taking a look at those around us, our history, the circumstances of our world, we can re-adjust our perspective. What we might believe is someone acting wrong and immoral is merely their being righteous in a way they understand by their own values. Sometimes we will be able to see, that those actions might on the small scale be immoral, but are moral on a greater scale.
Sometimes, ruining a persons life, breaking a law, killing one person or ten-thousand is the right thing to do.