“The current moment calls for moral ferocity. We should not sleep well at night when we know others are suffering. We need to raise our voices with clarity and channel our anger into protest and resistance. Ferocity itself, though, holds danger. Let’s not forget that some of the worst perpetrators of evil have often claimed to act in the name of the good, or God, or the national interest, or a future utopia. By claiming the moral high ground, and labeling our opponents misguided, we run the risk of doing great harm in the name of good.
“I suggest that we balance our moral ferocity with humility and tenderness. First, we need the humility of consistent self-examination. This requires us to do something very countercultural: Celebrate questions even when we do not have answers. Our culture rewards certainty, confidence, and definitive answers. By celebrating questions, we increase the likelihood of identifying the potential harm we might do in the name of our values.
“These moments often call for bold and creative responses. It is not enough to repeat the stories of the past; we must also write new ones. We must step off the page into our own situation, which is unmapped and unknown.
“If we can educate new generations to balance ferocity with humility and tenderness, questions with responses, then our encounters with darkness, whether in the study of history or the daily news, can galvanize thoughtful, compassionate action. And maybe one day, when it is very quiet, we will hear, not the cries of the suffering, but laughter.”
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