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Questions of Moral Responsibility, Nihilism, and Consistency

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Sitting down at their usual picnic table in the park, Kurt takes a quiet breath. “I’m not having a sexuality crisis or one of faith. Could I just ask you something and you answer honestly?”

“I don’t typically lie ta ya when we’re having these conversations, dawg. Go ahead.”

“Do you believe there’s good in everyone? Not that everyone is a good person, I know they’re are many people who aren’t, but do you believe everyone, at least, has a tiny speck of goodness in them?”

“No.”

Nodding, Kurt props his chin on hand. “I imagined you’d say that. What’s the point of- I try hard to be a good person. I try to keep my faith strong. What’s the point in doing this?”

“Beats me, blue. That’s just what being an X-Geek is about, yo: Y’all try to save the world, so far, you’ve always succeeded, and then, you keeping doing good ‘til it’s time ta do it again. Sometimes, me and the Brotherhood help, and sometimes, it’s you against us.”

“What if we save a person who does horrible things?”

“Before or after ya save them?”

“Both. Either. Pick one.”

“Okay. If they do it after, that’s on them, yo. You made the choice to save them. Whatever choices they make after, dawg, there’s no credit or blame that can be reasonably applied ta you. If ya save someone you know is bad, well, I guess it comes down to why. Still, though, if a jury finds someone not guilty, and that person blows up a building, yo, I probably wouldn’t blame the jury, even if they were sure the person was guilty. There’s a lotta reasons they coulda decided not to vote guilty.”

“Huh.” Kurt studies him for a long moment. “You always have such an interesting perspective.”

“Not really.”

“How do- Whether you call it cynicism or realism, I don’t understand how you can live when you feel this way.”

“That your subtle way of saying I should kill myself, Nightcrawler?”

Kurt smacks him hard. “Never, ever, ever joke about that, Toad. Never.”

Rolling his eyes, Toad rubs his head. “Fine.”

There’s silence.

Then, Toad sighs. “Alright, look, blue, this world sucks. I don’t hold out much hope for it getting better, yo. But way I see it, I can either be miserable all the time, or I can try ta score whatever happiness I can. It usually makes you happy to trying changing things, making the world better however ya can. Me, I get some decent food, I see someone I care about smiling, the antennae on our TV works without me having ta hold it the whole time, things like that, then, I’m happy.”

“What if all I do, in the end, is meaningless?”

“Yeah, uh, I’m really not the best person to- look, dawg, I think, in the end, everything everyone does is gonna be meaningless. We die, we’re gone forever. Eventually, the whole universe will be dead, yo. But-” He squirms. “I’m fine with thinking that. It don’t make me feel bad. I don’t want you feeling bad, dawg.”

“Thanks,” is the small reply. “I don’t believe in eternal death. We’re born, and just because the body dies, our souls live on. The universe forming might have a scientific explanation, but I can’t believe it could have ever formed without divine intervention setting those scientific principles into play. But- could God truly create pure evil?”

“It’s obvious you want the answer to be no,” Toad observes. “So, if it makes ya feel better, believe that, yo. Let’s face it, until we die, neither of us are getting proof one way or another on who’s right about God existing. Jest take the same tack when it comes to whether people can be fully evil or not.”

Kurt considers this. “I know you’re never going to be an X-Man. There are very few people you’d ever place before yourself. But there are certain things you deeply believe to be right and wrong. There are lines you’d never cross. What makes you like this if you believe nothing truly matters?”

“Actually, fuzzy, I said, in the end, nothing’ll matter. Here and now, things matter. Things can stop mattering, ya know, but be important while they still do. Uh, most of those lines I wouldn’t cross is because I know I wouldn’t last long after I did, yo. Otherwise-”

He sighs. “If I were more like you, when I died, I’d be happy that I made a good difference in the world, that I made it a little better. Who cares, if eventually, everything and everyone will be dead, yo? You’ve helped so many people, Nightcrawler. Changed lives forever. And some of those people, they are good, and they’re gonna do really good things that’ll help even more people.”

“Since I’m not like that, I told ya before, when I die, I ain’t gonna have that many regrets, yo. This world has done almost nothing for me. But I’ve always tried to be happy whenever I could, and yeah, a few times, when I really thought it mattered, I’ve gone ta the bat for something or someone. So, I try living without regrets, and if I die without many, then, I’ve succeeded.”

Nodding, Kurt gives him a small smile. “Thank you.”

“What’s brought this on?”

“If you could go back in time, would you kill someone evil before they can do evil?”

“Is this about Hitler?”

“Not necessarily. Anyone who’s done bad things.”

“It’d depend. We talking about baby Hitler here or we talking about killing someone an hour before they can bomb a building that’ll kill hundreds?”

“Either. Both.”

“Okay. So, what’s my chances of getting away with the killing, blue? What are my chances of dying? Failing?”

Giving him a look, Kurt shakes his head. “For the purposes of this, you’ll succeed, and you won’t face any negative consequences for it.”

“I dunno. In the case of the baby, no. Now, if we’re talking about slipping som’ing to cause a woman ta have an abortion, maybe, but once the baby’s born, no. Baby killing’s one of those lines. But the other, it’d depend. I’ve never killed anyone, dawg. Hopefully, I never will.”

“Neither have I. But I might, someday. In the process of trying to save someone. What if I kill someone to save someone, and the person I save does horrible things?”

Toad’s quiet for moment. “I don’t remember how old I was, but my momma and I were in Manhattan once. She took me to the towers, and maybe it was just because I was little, but they were so awesome. I still have a postcard with their picture. I really wish me and you could go, fuzzy. I think you’d’ve really liked them.”

“Oh,” is the soft response. “That- that would have been nice.”

“Most of the people involved are either dead or locked up. Maybe, someday, some other Muslim is going to do something really bad. But you wouldn’t decide not save someone jus’ cause they’re wearing a scarf on their head or have one of those moon necklaces. Say ya found out that this person in danger was family to one of those hijackers, though. Save them or not, blue?”

“I’d try my best to save them. They shouldn’t be blamed for what someone in their family did.”

“And you shouldn’t be blamed for some stranger making a bad choice, Nightcrawler. If you buy someone a cup of coffee, and they decide to buy drugs with the money that they would have spent on the coffee, are ya gonna blame yourself for that, yo?”

“I don’t think so, no,” Kurt answers.

“Good.”

“What about you? How do you feel about Muslims?”

“When it comes to their beliefs, about the same way I feel about yours, dawg. I think you’re both wrong, but it ain’t my place ta try making ya believe different. Otherwise, though, I don’t really know any Muslims. Sure wouldn’t risk myself to save one of them, but then, I wouldn’t for anyone. Consistency, yo.”

“You aren’t angry at them?”

“Yo, I’m always going to hate those people who took our towers, mine, away. But it’d be just as stupid to blame some kid in my algebra class for the towers being gone as it would be to blame you for some priests hurting little kids.”

“I know you’re right, but- I can’t help but worry about bad things happening because I was trying my best to help.”

“Well, if it were me, I just wouldn’t help, then, but yeah, that won’t fly with you, will it? Okay. What’s brought all this on, blue?”

“I don’t know. I’ve just been thinking a lot, lately.”

“I think, maybe, ya need to turn to your faith more in this instance, yo. Ya believe God wants ya ta do good things, right? Help people, follow certain rules?”

“Ja.”

“Then, do that. Don’t worry about whether other people are right with God or not, yo. If someone does bad things, unless ya did something bad ta make them do it, then, they’ll be answering ta him or her or whatever someday. As long as you try your best to be good and make things right when ya do bad, if your God really is fair and just, then, the things you’re gonna be answering for won’t be for what they did.”

A large amount of tension visibly drains from Kurt’s stance. “Thank you.”

“No problem. Feeling better, dawg?”

“Yes, thank you. Um- I could buy you some ice-cream. As a thank you.”

“No need for thanks, but ya know I’m never gonna turn down free ice-cream, yo.”

“Let’s go,” Kurt says. “Nothing over ten dollars.”

“Fair enough.”