Amazingly, it is still seen as viable [by some] to cite the indecencies/shortcomings of leaders/movers/progenitors etc. as reasons to completely discredit their ideas or contributions to society. I know at least one anti-feminist who trumpets the eugenics ideas of Margaret Sanger as one more reason that Planned Parenthood is the devil. I’ve recently come in contact with a few who feel that Martin Luther King, Jr’s womanizing negates any of his work towards equality and civil rights.
If Thomas Edison had gone through life hitting people in the head and taking their money, does that mean I’m morally obligated not to use lightbulbs?
When can we separate the origins of a thing from what it has become?
The analogies can reach further, into the Christian attitudes towards holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, and Easter – all of which are born out of pagan rituals and commemorations. Some Christians do not observe any of the holidays because of their origins. Some choose to only celebrate with the Christian versions and do not engage in the dressing up on Halloween, the trees and gifts at Christmas, or the eggs and bunnies at Easter [read: the fun stuff]. And of course, there are those that go in for the whole kit and kaboodle, reasoning that nobody these days really believes that bunnies lay eggs, dead souls walk the earth, or worships trees and logs or whatever.
But really, what’s the deal?
How long does something good have to be around before the flawed humanity that started it can be forgiven enough to allow this good thing a wide and positive reception? It’s also worthy of note that, more often than not, those whose flaws are remembered are the ones who have already been marginalized for some other reason. Remembered flaws, then, are a further effort to keep certain groups of people in their ‘place’.
If I look at the flip side of the coin, I understand that it’d be harder for me to use the internet if, say, it’d been invented by Charles Manson. We associate all the different pieces of who people are, with what they do – which isn’t wrong. And we all have to make our own decisions based on our own moral compasses.
I like to be economically and socially responsible, so I face dilemmas like knowing that I should probably be investing in companies that don’t exploit the earth or minorities or third-world countries, that I should be driving a hybrid [or at least carpooling], etc.
There’s the old story about the preacher who railed against gambling all his life – calling the proceeds ‘the Devil’s money’. When his child wanted to go to college and fees started adding up, the lottery-funded assistance program was right on time. And the preacher said – ‘Well, the Devil’s had that money long enough.’
So, I know there’s a fine line between supporting something you don’t believe in and benefiting from the good that may come from it. The line’s a big blur to me, though. And I spend a lot of time wondering which side I’m on.