(AlterNet) -- Evil, like beauty, is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.
It is difficult to distinguish an evil act from an evil person. Few people, for example, would argue that Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, and Josef Stalin were not evil men. But if killing lots of people is the criteria, Abraham Lincoln was a pretty evil guy, too; he just happened to be on the right side of history. As the saying goes, history is written by the winners and, it seems, the winners get to decide who is evil. For a long time, we Americans have thought of ourselves as a shining beacon of goodness. Ronald Reagan stoked that mood with his “Morning in America” administration. Meanwhile, those bad guys over there in the Soviet "Evil Empire" were wreaking their havoc. Only, the rest of the world does not quite see it that way. Distrust of America is growing and we are seen as one of the biggest perpetrators of evil and bloodshed, the“Great Satan” to some. This confuses Americans because that's not what we see when we look at ourselves in the mirror, and through the lens of American exceptionalism.
The point is, objective truths are hard to pin down, and subjective truths are many and contradictory. Adolf Hitler was evil because he killed people out of spite and a bankrupt and hate-filled ideology (although he also probably didn’t see himself as evil when he looked in the mirror.) Lincoln was not evil because he was forced into the position of killing people for the preservation of the country. But many Germans worshipped Hitler, and many in the Confederacy despised Lincoln.
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