“If that’s how you win wars, then I don’t want to win.”
– Dean Winchester, Supernatural
Season 3, Episode 12, “Jus in Bello”
Fitting, I thought, to quote Supernatural just after having reviewed it. 🙂
Sam and Dean Winchester are characters who have spent the majority of their lives fighting, and typically against overwhelming odds, with substantial stakes. They’ve done some pretty desperate things over the years, some of them more than a little questionable. But they have also learned the hard way that they weren’t always right, and that the principles of “necessary sacrifice” and “for the greater good” form a very slippery slope that’ll take them straight to Hell if they set one foot down that path.
In this particular instance, they’re outnumbered and surrounded by enemies, literal demons who want to kill them and everyone with them. One of their more unlikely allies arrives on the scene with a potential solution. The can perform a spell that will annihilate all the demons in the area, but it requires the sacrifice of virgin, specifically cutting out their heart. And wouldn’t you know it, they have a virgin right there, a nice, sweet, young, Christian girl.
Dean automatically and irreversibly opposes this idea, for obvious reasons. Others are more willing. Even the girl is willing to die, if it’ll save all her friends. It’s a terrible, awful thing, but everyone’s lives are at stake. They’re fighting a war, for survival, against monsters. And that’s when Dean says the above quote, because while the stakes may be high, “that doesn’t mean we throw away the rule book and stop acting like humans.”
War is Hell, and it demands terrible things, but for the people doing them to retain their humanity, there must be rules. There must be guiding principles, a goal that will not be betrayed in the name of achieving it. There must be lines that will not be crossed, not under any circumstances, because a man with no such line is a monster waiting to happen.
Interestingly, the “ally” who originally proposes this terrible plan is not truly an ally at all, but a double agent. An enemy wearing the guise of a friend, she seduces Sam towards doing exactly the things he should not do. And central to this is the idea that he must make sacrifices. He must do bad things in the name of doing something good. But it’s all a trick, and a trap. Though Dean convinces Sam not to go through with this particular sacrifice, the idea is planted, and so is the willingness to do so later.
Beware the voice that says, “Do anything,” for it is not your friend.
The voice that inspires you towards greater humanity, now, that is one worth listening to.