The Romans had a concept, hostis humani generis, the literal translation being enemy of the human race, or common enemy of all. Cicero spoke of pirates being such in De Officiis, Book III, Ch. XXIX. It’s tied in closely with homo sacer, the legal status of being a person outside the law…or an outlaw. Under most definitions, which include English common law, certain behaviors were so evil as to place a person outside the limits of civilization. Pirates were almost universally included, as were patrons who committed fraud or broke oaths in Roman times. The person who fell into such a category could be killed by anyone and enjoyed no protection from the sovereign. It was the definition of a Hobbesian existence. Beyond mere banishment, the person was deemed not just a threat to their polis or country, but also a threat to civilization. It was primarily reserved for behavior in those societies that was so beyond the pale and contra to their legal and social norms as to be a direct assault on the very foundation of the society. While not the definition of evil that I subscribe to, it was, in fact, an exceptionally good response to the problem of that class of people who cannot be allowed to continue their behavior.
One of the fundamental misunderstandings most Americans suffer from is the actual praxis of evil. The very nature of evil is the eradication of good, for the very existence of anything that is good and right is an indictment against that which is not. None of the examples of evil we conjure up from the last century were an accident. Rather, they were the result of seemingly innocuous and often times superficially good ideas or people. In hindsight one can point to the one degree of separation in the ideology and what grew out of that small difference. Like good, evil bear fruit. We have this mythos in America and Europe about genocide and other human tragedies as if they were political lightning strikes and a combination of unlucky circumstance, rather than an inevitability. Perhaps it is the fact we haven’t experienced true evil up close and personal on a mass scale. The US has been largely shaded from things like the Holdomore or Armenian genocide. It is entirely different experiences watching a documentary on an event versus living through it or having oral history passed down from family members. Much of the naïveté in our society is precisely because we have been so sheltered from the fruits of evil. To us it is this theoretical concept with horns and child sacrifice and very rarely is there ever any portrayal of it in its infancy when it is candy coated and palatable. The Romans, specifically the true statesmen of the Empire, recognized the insatiable appetite and virility of evil behavior when left unchecked. In keeping with our humanist roots and strong individualist leanings, the US elected to take the ‘wretched refuse of your teeming shore’ and simply redefine evil as someone’s opinion. History seems to clearly favor one position over the other.
The misunderstanding of many on the right is that those espousing evil principles can be trusted to ‘live and let live.’ I hear this often by decent people, and while on its surface it speaks to their desire to avoid conflict, it also betrays a lack of understanding about what they are confronting. Live and let live is merely an opportunity for evil to retreat and regroup. Most of us have had a steady diet of postmodernist thought fed to us since birth, boomers included. Whether through popular culture or higher education we have been inculcated with the idea that good and evil have this give and take relationship. To add to the muddling of the waters we also have fully embraced a relativistic moral code, on both sides of the political and social spectrums. One of the primary reasons for the success evil has enjoyed, specifically in the last five decades, is that many of us will refuse to acknowledge the natural result of a person espousing evil ideals and living those out. Most on the right cannot even agree on a moral standard, and are content with merely rolling back the gaping maw of the hedonistic wasteland we currently live in to the more manageable and morally analgesic one in its infancy from the late 18th century.
The right will continue to lose strategic battles politically and socially until it can establish a unified ideology and that ideology has praxis in the real world. Lawrence v. Texas happened in 2003 and today a transvestite is running for office for a major political party. The Trump effect will fade in 2020 or 2024 if the left does absolutely nothing but exist, because the Bill Kristols of the world and the “Constitutional conservatives” will never have the stomach to do anything but beat them back across a line under their self-imposed Marquis of Queensbury rules. The left will regroup behind that line and then push until a new one is established. We are satisfied with détente until one day you wake up to the inevitable result and history students have to memorize a set of dates and a name associated with your shallow graves. It’s not a popular sentiment or statement to make, but in the battle between all of recorded human history and your feelings, I’ll take the former every time.