Efforts to proclaim moral equivalence are not always misguided; sometimes each side is equally at fault or close enough. But these efforts are often misguided and unhelpful -- and sometimes harmful.
Throughout my life, there has been an increasing trend to attach moral equivalence to all kinds of disputes and conflicts, such as Israel vs. Hamas, which is the subject of a future column. I assume this is mostly an outgrowth of our culture's descent into moral relativism, but it's also a product of our intellectual laziness.
We see it everywhere. It is a common practice in describing marriages gone wrong. "It takes two." "Who's to say who is more at fault?" Well, that sounds good and is often true, but how about in the case of the spousal or child abuser?
But where I find it most troubling is in partisan politics. There the trend toward moral equivalence is the wrongdoer's best friend. If we dismiss every despicable and corrupt act with the mindless cliche "everyone does it," then we excuse the wrongdoer for his misconduct and encourage further misbehavior.
Sure, both sides are often at fault, but that isn't always the case, and it doesn't make you a better person to say otherwise if it isn't true.
For example, I don't know a single conservative who supports muzzling leftist thought or speech, no matter how repugnant he may find it. Yet leftists are strongly supportive of various measures to suppress, even outlaw, conservative speech, from campus speech codes to the Fairness Doctrine. There is no way to describe this disparity in terms of moral equivalence.
I sincerely believe there is a reason liberals engage in this behavior far more than conservatives. It is because many of them believe that their ends, which they believe are vastly superior, justify their means. I've seen it so much that I suspect it is inherent in leftist ideology.
See the irony? Liberals, who are usually the first to throw up moral equivalency arguments when caught red-handed, are skilled practitioners at judging us -- their political opponents -- all the while claiming they just want everyone to get along. Through such moral shaming about moral judgments, the left intimidates conservatives from making and articulating their own moral assessments.
Modern manifestations of this practice are the left's virtual weaponization of political correctness, its obsession with so-called "diversity" and multiculturalism, and its rejection of the idea of American exceptionalism.