Moral Equivalence In Action

So my sister takes me to her place of employment. It’s winter break, and unlike in the United States, Australians just take off for a couple weeks through the holidays. The few people at the office the fam and I get to meet. My sister reminds us to behave, to be gracious and introduce ourselves if, for some reason, she forgets an employee’s name since she’s still relatively new there, and to keep our hands to ourselves. She did not explicitly tell me to not talk politics. Her mistake.

Everything goes smoothly. Pleasantries exchanged hither and thither. We occupy ourselves without breaking anything while she chats with a colleague about some issue. And then we go to leave. On our way out, we bid adieu to the temporary receptionist.

“Oh, I remember you. You’re the BBC sister,” says she–barely concealed scorn in her voice. My sister told her colleagues that I’d be doing U.S. election coverage for the BBC. Unlike in the U.S. where no one watches the BBC so my little foray into punditry went unnoticed, in Australia, everyone watches the BBC. So while I’ve never met her co-workers, they’ve “met” me because the TVs were on all day at work and my mug was there, too, with my politics on full display.

That’s me.

“Yes, we had our TVs on everywhere and saw you.” She didn’t say it like it was a good thing. Time to change the topic.

Why aren’t you on vacation?

“I’m taking my five weeks [Australia’s only rival for labor cushiness is France] altogether.”

How nice. Where are you going?

“Iran and Syria.”

My face couldn’t hide my shock.

“Oh, it’s safe,” she assured me. “The travel company wouldn’t take us if it wasn’t safe. It’s not like they’ll take us to the border of Iraq or anything.”

Now, if I had more restraint, I would have just let that little slice of silly go, but I didn’t have much restraint and I didn’t like her attitude to begin with. I could feel my sister’s anxiety rise next to me. She psychically sent signals screaming, “DON’T SAY ANYTHING! DON’T SAY ANYTHING! LET IT GO!” I ignored them and smiled grandly at the receptionist.

I think you’d be safer in Iraq, actually.

The receptionist launched. “It’s not like I’m stupid. I’ve been to Libya and it was wonderful. Syria and Iran are beautiful countries. It’s perfectly safe.”

My sister interceded,”I hope you have a wonderful time! We better get going we have a long day ahead of us.”

Before this infernal woman ever talked about the loveliness of the Islamic dictatorships in question, I disliked her. I don’t like that I sometimes dislike people without any evidence to dislike them–or no conscious evidence. Maybe it was her hauteur, her territorial set, her mouth turned in a curled snarl. I don’t know. But I do know that there are some people that I inexplicably like immediately and some I don’t and that it rarely feels rational and it rarely changes with more actual evidence.

I spent some time thinking about the exchange because it bothered me that I allowed this woman to affect my blood pressure. The foundation of my irritation was the woman’s determined moral equivalence. She clearly thought I was a close-minded rube while she was an open-minded woman of the world. She had been to these places and the countries weren’t evil. They were misunderstood. Not only that, but democracy is overrated. It’s so annoying how Westerners, Americans especially, think their way is a better way. Who are they to decide what’s better for other people?

And you know what I think? I think America and Western countries are objectively better, you moron. In Iran this week, guys were stoned to death for supposedly committing adultery. Iran is the country that hangs supposedly gay, underage men. Syria is the country clandestinely building nuclear bombs and then blaming Israel for “planting evidence.” Iran and Syria support and arm Hamas and Hezbollah whose explicit goal is to destroy Israel.

If there is a way that these regimes is misunderstood, it’s by the useful idiots who want to minimize the risk they present to the human ideals of liberty, self-determination and life. A Westerner may be safe in Cuba, Iran, Syria, Libya, China, Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in dictatorial states, but their own people aren’t. That would be a major difference between a smug secretary enjoying her five week vacation in thug states. She can go home when she wants, how she wants, with whom she wants and believe how she wants. The citizens in the backward nations of Syria and Iran have no such luxury. That she can’t see this demonstrates a callous disregard for her fellow man and contempt for her own freedom that has been bought and continues to be paid for with blood and treasure.

The moral equivalence crowd can move to and rot in these despotic regimes they so aggrandize. It would be better than destroying their own countries from within.

Cross-posted at

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