Sunday’s Wisdom 105: Good and Strong

“Your father was the most honest man I ever met, but he carried a knife.”
– Carmine Falcone, Gotham
Season 1, Episode 22, “All Happy Families Are Alike”

During this scene, Carmine Falcone has effectively handed off the torch of Gotham city’s welfare to a more honest man, a strong lawman, Jim Gordon. He gives Gordon a knife, one that Gordon’s father gave to him, with the words, “A knife is a good friend when you have no other.” Very sound wisdom for a criminal to heed. They aren’t exactly rich with steadfast friends. Neither are honest cops when the department is corrupt as Hell itself.

Even so, one can still be an honest man.

So long as one remembers that “honest” does not mean “stupid, naïve, and blindly trusting.”

It also doesn’t mean “weak and helpless.”

If anyone can comment on the virtues of going armed, it’s a crime lord. They understand the worst of humanity, and they know that immediate physical threats to your life can only be stopped by immediate physical power.

Opposite them are the cops, the people charged with protecting others, putting themselves between evil and the innocent victim. They, too, understand the worse and more brutal aspects of humanity, and reality. Facing darkness like that, it can be very tempting to fight fire with fire. It can easily seem like nothing we do is enough, while criminals seem to do so much by ignoring the law. Wanting to get things done, people sometimes choose to throw away their integrity. Gordon himself makes that choice in due time.

That is a mistake, and a costly one, both for Gordon and for all of us.

There are better ways to do things, ways that don’t involve selling or sullying your soul, becoming part of the problem you are trying to solve. The system is not perfect, and may never be, but it’s better than inhumanity. Honesty, integrity, nobility, honor, compassion… these are the things that make “protection” a legitimate cause.

All the same, if you want to be a guard dog when the wolves come knocking, it helps to have proper teeth.

Those two ideas are not remotely opposites. One can be both noble and strong, at the same time. In fact, that is very much the ideal. Being good is not the same as being naïve.

That is a truth that the weak and the criminal alike would both like the world to stop believing. The weak would like to avoid the shame of their weakness by cloaking it in so-called virtue, while the criminal would like all their would-be victims to be weak.

Unfortunately for both, there are plenty of good men who, while not seeking trouble, will always be ready when trouble finds them.

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