Ta-Nehisi Coates has a beautiful piece on compassion over at The Atlantic, which I will not undermine by selectively quoting here. You should go read it. But I will pull out a tangent, which is a nice sound-bite:

The problem with rage is that it’s a conversation-stopper, it forecloses all other questions.

and a comment from reader and sometime guest-blogger Cynic, about being a plantation owner in the antebellum south:

You sketch a compelling picture of the thousand strings tied to any man who wishes to abandon the core social structures of the world in which he lives, to abandon his status and privilege and obligations. That sort of change is wrenchingly hard. But I find it harder to empathize with those who simply accepted this state of affairs, or worse yet, defended it. Jefferson, at least, strained all his life against those thousand Lilliputian ropes, by his exertions pulling his society a little further towards his ideal. He never severed the bonds, to be sure, which I suppose makes him a hypocrite – he enjoyed, and exploited, all the privileges they conferred. But I prefer the tormented hypocrisy of the individual sinner working for moral reform to the perfect complacency of the obdurate sinner defending the sinful society.

I am almost seduced by Cynic’s language—

I prefer the tormented hypocrisy of the individual sinner working for moral reform to the perfect complacency of the obdurate sinner defending the sinful society.

—into liking Jefferson, but truly, I’ve always thought Jefferson’s hypocrisy was worse than those who moved blindly through their world in unseeing conviction that brutality and exploitation were merely the natural order of things.

Whom do you find harder to forgive?

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