Let’s keep it simple. We love things that are easy. Simple instructions, easy assembly. Simple does not require a lot of work.
Categories are a way to keep things simple. We use categories to explain and describe people. One dangerous category is describing people as good or bad.
People are complex and can’t be just one or the other. If all we have is good people and bad people, we really get screwed up when we see bad people do good things and good people do bad things.
Let’s throw it out. People are neither good nor bad, they are just people. And those people do both good and bad in their lifetime.
Why, because we are complex.
I love the podcast The Sporkful. In the episode Prison Ramen Saved My Life, Gustavo Alvarez was a guest. He spoke of his time in prison and the food the prisoners would make. One of the things that jumped out at me was when he talked about hitman burritos. They are burritos made by a hitman. Gustavo described the man who made the burritos as a mentor and he also knew what he did to end up in prison.
This was an example of a person who is neither good nor bad but a person. A person capable of taking another life but also able to show kindness.
Season 1 of the podcast Crimetown is chock-full of examples of people who are capable of showing love and loyalty while at the same time committing a wide range of criminal activity.
People do good things. People do bad things.
Right now we need to keep this in mind as we try to make sense of the world. Keeping things simple won’t work.
For many of us, cops are good. They are trusted members of society. When we see a cop doing something bad, we have to work hard to correct that mental image. Instead we look for examples of cops doing good to ease our cognitive dissonance. We share those examples as a way to feel better about the world. We push aside the inconvenient image that doesn’t fit how we want to perceive and define the world.
Cops are people and they categorically can’t be good or bad. Cops are capable of doing good things and bad things. Because life and people aren’t that simple, they are deeply complex.