by Timothy Lane 11/11/13
“Even a man who is pure at heart and says his prayers at night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” Aristocratic scion Larry Talbot had no idea how soon this would come true for him when an attractive shopgirl explained the meaning of the peculiar symbol on a nice can with a silver wolf’s head that he wisely purchased.
Today, most people would consider such an attitude unfair. If a good person can be turned into a monster not by his own choice but by evil fate (Talbot was bitten by a werewolf before he succeeded in killing it with his cane), then where is justice? It’s a good question, and sometimes the bitter answer is: nowhere. Innocent people are occasionally convicted of crimes, particularly by those who rely on Judge Lynch to determine the verdict and carry out the sentence. Meanwhile, guilty people are set free, to resume their crimes. (Anyone who wants a good example of the price paid by others for liberal jurisprudence is invited to study Ann Rule’s The Want-Ad Killer, about a monster named Harvey Carignan who was let go on a technicality and went on to commit a number of savage crimes, including several murders as well as some attempted murders.)
At a time when soppy notions of fairness and self-esteem are so dominant, perhaps more people (especially young people who are being deceived by all that folderol) need to see The Wolf-Man so that they can understand that fairness, however desirable a goal in one’s own behavior toward others, is nevertheless doesn’t always happen. Life isn’t always fair; maybe it isn’t even often fair. People need to learn this.
But one must also be careful not to go too far in the opposite direction. Commenting on William T. Sherman’s “War is hell” viewpoint (he may not have said it precisely, but he certainly expressed the same basic point on a number of occasions), former Confederate artillerist E. Porter Alexander noted that it depends on the warrior and contrasted Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania with Sherman’s invasion of Georgia (Alexander’s home state). Similarly, those readiest to point out the unfairness of life are all too often doing their best to make it that way. People should realize that life isn’t going to be inherently fair, but also that they can at least make it fairer than it otherwise might be without such efforts.
In other words, decent, ethical behavior helps improve the world, but – partly because of fate, partly because of the ill-will of those without ethics or scruples – they will never render it perfect. And people should realize, and act on, both points.