By Tom Ehrich
For my friend "Jane," evil wore the face of her older brother, who molested her as a child and told her to accept it as normal.
For my friend "Greg," evil wore the face of his uncle, who forced him into sex when no one was looking.
What, then, of the US Army general who abused his rank, forced a subordinate into sex, and then received a wrist-slap when his defense undercut her testimony? Was evil on his face, in his behavior, in his courtroom strategy?
Scott Peck, in his book "People of the Lie," said to look at the eyes. Rage-filled pastor Fred Phelps seemed to have eyes that were dark, empty, stony. But the general seemed lively enough.
In her epic performance as a power-mad and deceitful attorney in "Damages," Glenn Close often wore sunglasses when she was at her most malevolent to keep her eyes hidden. Her dramatic foil was just as much a liar and manipulator, but Rose Byrne hardly ever covered her eyes. She portrayed innocence throughout.
Evil is confusing. Not unexpected for a force that tells lies, manipulates people, exploits vulnerabilities, and claims to be a friend. But still confusing. Classic arguments about the so-called "problem of evil" tend to rely on chilly logic and arch views of God. I keep coming back to the empty eyes, the confusing smiles, the hidden character that is terrifying and yet not easily opposed, especially for a progressive wanting to avoid labels and knee-jerk, certainty-laced ideology.
I mention all this because in next Monday's Fresh Day magazine, we will address evil. We will offer cogent words, of course, but I think the feature will turn on the video I have asked my colleague Yana to make. She has a remarkable talent for adding images to words and telling a story deeper than the words had found.
We'll see. The starting point, it seems to me, is to recognize that evil exists, to resist the temptation to label anyone I don't like as "evil," and to keep myself alert for empty eyes and smooth lies.