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Yesterday was a tragic day for some young people. A tornado killed eight high school students in Enterprise, Georgia; and a charter bus accident killed four college students on their way to a spring training baseball game in Florida. There were others elsewhere, every bit as tragic. Unfortunately, these constituted the tragedies du jour for some of cable TV’s less than stellar talking heads.
As I channel surfed, anxiously searching for some substantive news, such as whether Anna Nicole Smith finally made it into a grave, or whether Britney Spears survived another day in rehab, or more details concerning the rumored upcoming Geico “Cave-Man” sitcom, I came upon CNN’s Anderson Cooper asking this question: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Voila! This week’s column was born. I don’t have issues with Anderson Cooper, but I thought his use of this provocative question was less than sincere.
Regardless, there is an answer. In fact, there are myriad answers. So, finding one is not difficult. Finding a universally accepted answer, however, seems to be impossible. Here’s mine. Your mileage may vary, but the only time that’s a problem for me is when you dogmatically deem to impose it on others.
I’ve looked hard for someone, ANYONE, who can give me a solid definition for “good” relative to people. What makes us think of some people as good and others as bad? Is the distinction absolute? Who decides? Is there a standardized evaluation criterion? Does believing in God make a difference? Where does that put Atheists? How about those who don’t know if there’s a God? Or, perhaps Anderson’s question was purely rhetorical, to project a clinical compassion for the families of the victims.
More people have told me that I’m a good person than those who have told me otherwise. In fact, I can’t recall anyone ever telling me to my face that I’m a bad person. So, is this the reason that my children were born free of birth defects? I’m confused! A good friend of mine has a granddaughter with Spina Bifida. He seems like a good person. Is this his bad happening? More importantly, what about the grandchild? She was born with Spina Bifida. Was there some kind of attempt to get even with someone?
Good, bad, right, wrong, moral, immoral, reward, punishment! These are all human terms. They do not exist in nature. In nature, only actions and consequences exist. Humans continually insist on questioning this for some reason. Why? Is it because humans are capable of self-awareness? Is this why there MUST always be rhyme and reason for every human tragedy. If so, it complicates things and, in my opinion, makes a Deity look silly whenever we try to invoke one.
Many of us listened in shock and sorrow as we learned of so many youthful deaths yesterday. For us listeners, our sorrow was sincere but clinical. For the families and friends of those young victims, it was devastating and personal. Preordained? Some sort of divine retribution? God’s will? I don’t think so. Bad luck? Yes, and terrible beyond imagination. Things happen to people. Good and bad are irrelevant labels.
Some people think that I’m arrogant because I do not credit a supreme being for the good things that have happened in my life. I don’t think I’m arrogant, but they’re correct in so far as me not crediting God. On the other hand, I’ve never blamed God for the “bad” things that have happened to me, either. Hard work notwithstanding, I’ve had a good life because I’ve had more good luck than bad. Others haven’t.
Regardless of human fault—and there will be plenty of it flying around once the lawyers get involved—these youngsters were unlucky. I wish their families the best in dealing with it.
There’s something else, too, but it does not apply to these young people. Good luck and bad luck are not ALL there is to it. Let us NOT overlook the fact that some people are a lot dumber than others are. George Bush, Nancy Grace, Shawn Hannity, and two locals: Rick Jensen and Gerry Fulcher of WDEL’s Live and Local are just a few. I’m sure there are those who would include me, too.
Many more people, less famous, also do stupid things that contribute to their bad luck. Right after 9/11, our government leaders established the Department of Homeland Security, which promptly instructed people to go buy duct tape to protect themselves from terroristic chemical and biological attacks. Many complied without considering that the risks of driving to buy the tape far outweighed the risks of not having it. Of course, it would have been a different story had sex been involved. Duct tape CAN be essential under certain circumstances.
When life hands us lemons, they tell us to make lemonade. No problem. Sometimes, though, in addition to handing us lemons, life tears our pants off; exposes our naked butts; runs a power sander back and forth across it a few times; then pours lemon juice into the wounds. This happened to a friend of mine. Trust me; making lemonade never occurred to her. Boy, could she have used some duct tape, though!
I’ll be back next week. In the meantime, stay good, or bad, depending on the circumstances. Bad can be a lot of fun if it’s done right; but, I have no direct knowledge of this. Either way, though, things might happen to you, especially if you’ve been good with that duct tape left over from the 9/11 business. If so, let Anderson Cooper know. I think he’s doing some kind of research.
Joseph Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. Copyright laws apply to all material on this site. Send your comments. Just click here.