A twitter exchange this morning reminded me of the conflation of things that we often deal with. You see… often when it comes out that there are people doing particularly negative things, they aren't talked about as being bad people, rather they are talked about being bad ______ people (in the blank is a different characteristic of said people), as if they wouldn't be bad folks if they weren't this other characteristic as well. And you know what? We shouldn't be making excuses for bad behaviour, even if they happen to have whatever other characteristics.
Recent examples include:
– baseball fans making gay-bashing comments on twitter (but at least they're baseball fans!)
– atheists (or skeptics) making misogynist comments (or doing misogynist things) (but at least they're atheists or skeptics)
– rich successful business folks doing racist things (but at least they're rich and successful!)
– geek culture fans making women feel uncomfortable (or worse) (but at least they're geek culture fans!)
– website supporters who drive traffic and growth by potentially morally reprehensible actions (but at least they've helped the site!)
– political party supporters who happen to be (non-) religious making statements slamming someone's personal choices (but at least… *sighs*)
These excuses don't actually hold water people. Really. I believe they fall in the realm of folks who apologize saying 'no offense' before saying something potentially incredibly inflammatory. Honestly, the offense is often still felt regardless of prefacing an insult with an apology, just the same as gay-bashing, misogyny, racism etc. should be seen as negative no matter whether the perpetrator has his/her heart in the right place or not. We shouldn't be making excuses for one thing based on some other characteristic of a person.
That said, I do believe that even people who have the above character flaws may be good people. Indeed they may even be great folks on a whole! But we should see them as a whole rather than just taking into account one awesome thing that hypothetically nullifies that which they've done wrong. Sure, we all do make mistakes… but really they are mistakes! Treat them as such! Don't just absolve someone of guilt or whatever because they're awesome in another area.
Because really these character flaws are character flaws regardless of what other awesomeness one might happen to have. Good things are not excuses for bad behaviours.
I hope this was clear (it seemed more clear in my head than in my typed sentences)…