confounding the “vuhls”

Fans of the collegiate gridiron oft anticipate those late November days…

South Carolina vs. Clemson… Oregon vs. Oregon State… Florida vs. Florida State…

Our house found ourselves camped on the combative contests of Michigan vs. Ohio State and Purdue vs. Indiana. 

The time is colloquially known as “rivalry week.” So for purposes of today’s primary point, let’s define the key — and dare I suggest, oft misunderstood — word…

rival [ rahy-vuhl ] – noun – a person who is competing for the same object or goal as another, or who tries to equal or outdo another; competitor.

Key to comprehension is the included synonym; a rival is a competitor. A competitor is one who vies for the same prize, accomplishment or acknowledgement. They want what we want, so-to-speak. Their ambition is comparable to ours. 

But notice what’s not included in the objective explanation of the word…

There exists no inclusion of moral value or virtue. There also exists no lack of it.

Meaning, a rival is just a rival. A competitor. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing better. Nothing worse.

But how many times do we dismiss the objective explanation in order to embolden our passion, perspective or experience?

And when we dismiss it, what do we do? 

We change what precedes the “vuhl.” Instead of rival — or “rahy-vuhl” — we think evil — or “ee-vuhl.” And just like that, we inject an assumption of morality… or perhaps more accurately stated, a lack of it.

When pondering this post, I kept thinking of how we confuse the terms, how we turn rivals into evils to justify the intensity of our dismissiveness or disgust. I think of all the ways and wheres in which we do that. I came across a recently revised Stanford study in their “Encyclopedia of Philosophy” in which they address the concept.

They suggest that ever since World War II, “moral, political, and legal philosophers have become increasingly interested in the concept of evil.” They also acknowledge that one of the aspects that has motivated the uptick in interest are “ascriptions of ‘evil’ by laymen, social scientists, journalists, and politicians.”

Let’s be clear. Sometimes such an ascription is a valid attempt to respond to the various atrocities and horrors on the planet…

9/11 was an act of evil.

The modern day genocides in Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia and Herzegovina are acts of evil.

Mass murder, terror, torture and human trafficking — all evil.

Evil is one thing. Badness and wrongdoing is another. But let’s be clear — as the Stanford study also affirms — they aren’t the same.

Which leads us to clearly express what many of our journalists, politicians and even college football fanatics will not. Let’s elaborate on the objective, even though agenda-driven media and fundraising partisans also will not…

Our rival is not our enemy. 

Maybe read such once more; our rival is not our enemy.

It doesn’t matter our level of disgust. It doesn’t matter the depth of the passion or how badly we want to beat them.

It’s simply wise not to confound the two, as they are not the same.

It also makes all November days better.