I shuffled into Hotwire coffee house, damp from drizzle, to meet two teenage friends, sisters. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, locked in sibling intensities. I smiled. “Good to see you two.”
Then began trouble. Dee piped, “Why do you think you know what is good? Goodness is prejudice. The world is always going to be a mess until old people stop imposing their values on everybody. People must do what they want, without censure or praise.” I gaped, and started to respond, but Dum jumped in. “Dee, it’s just the way old people are. They grew up thinking wars are inevitable. Make judgments; kill those who disagree. Right, Brad?”
“Well,” I began. “My generation made its judgments and wars. I was conceived during Korea. Raced Soviets to the moon. Got my first kiss during Vietnam. Finished graduate school before the Berlin Wall fell. Then came Iraq 1 and Balkans and Somalia and Afghanistan and Iraq 2. Maybe Iran and Korea 2 next.” I paused, frowning. “Wars are generally bad ideas.”
Dee’s arms shot up like a referee signaling touchdown. “There you go again! You don’t know what is good or bad. There is no such thing as virtue. Evil is a projection of infantile insecurities. ‘Goodness’ is you coercing me to agree.” I zagged and got us all another cup of coffee.
Rich aromas and a brief respite tamed frothing waters. I had responses. Humans are unalterably moral creatures. Voltaire (French, 18th century A.D.) described virtue as “doing good to one’s neighbor. . . . I am poor, you are liberal; I am in danger, you come to my help; I am deceived, you tell me the truth; I am neglected, you console me; I am ignorant, you instruct me” (Philosophical Dictionary, Virtue). And consider Jesus. But I dropped it. The Wonderland twins suffered selective deafness that afternoon. After a twenty minute yammer about life’s inanities, time was up. I hugged Dee and Dum. Dum said sheepishly, “We needed to vent.” I nodded and smiled.
Dee took my hand and whispered, “Thanks. It was good of you to listen.”