In the absence of God we all want perfect heroes, don’t we? We build them up and hate them as we drag them down to earth. I can’t write about characters who don’t get dragged into pits and stomped on. It doesn’t seem real to me. I can’t relate and feel the whole hero thing is a sham.
On the other hand when people struggle with an evil reality, get caught on their feelings of inadequacy and do nothing to address the evil I feel sympathetic. Some people are militant enough to watch PETA videos and give up meat (but we all know you can’t escape the grey areas even as a vegan).
And so it was with American slavery. There were no perfect heroes, but it’s wrong to say that there weren’t plenty of people who hated slavery. Here’s how a lot of Northerners handled it in their heads:
1. We are a loose confederacy of states. I’m not my brother’s keeper.
2. I know slavery is evil and we just had this Great Awakening religious revival thing and as a Christian I feel guilty.
3. Yet, the Constitution is a masterpiece, almost sacred, even. Hmm.
4. I don’t own slaves and no one in my state does. It’s not my problem and I can’t fix it.
5. Then why do I still feel guilty?
6. And why do I hate the Abolitionists?
7. I hate them because without them I can pretend that I’m innocent (since I don’t keep slaves). I just want to live my life in peace–and I have relatives down south. They don’t have slaves either.
8. I don’t hate abolitionists because I hate black people and want them enslaved. I hate them because they pick at that sore, they addle my conscience and I know they’re right . . .
9. But what’s to be done? I don’t want my son fighting a war . . . he’s so young and innocent.
10. I won’t read the papers, I won’t listen to the sermons–oh, slaves and slavery and grey areas! Damn them all to hell!