The Bad with the Good

Column by Craig Marshall Smith


We just get through — if not over — one Bad thing in the news and another one comes right along, on its heels, and clobbers our heads and hearts. In between something Good makes us feel OK again. For a while.

We get buffeted from the Aurora theater massacre to Missy to Jessica Ridgeway to the Broncos miracle to five people murdered in a Denver bar. And that's just us: metro Denver. Every other city in America and in the world goes through this. Try bookmarking The Los Angeles Times to get some idea of what happens in a larger city, in Los Angeles and the suburbs.

“I don't read the news, or watch it,” a nurse said to me recently. But for some reason he knew about Malala Yousufzai (The Good), the 14-year old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head on a school bus by members of the Taliban (The Bad).

There are statistics for absolutely everything. Except this: How many of us are Good and how many of us are Bad?

I know: “Good” and “Bad” are very broad generalizations, and that some of us are both Good and Bad. Or more Good than Bad, or more Bad than Good. But some of us are always Good, and some of us are always Bad.

Can you picture Missy Franklin EVER being Bad? Even a little Bad? Me either.

When I was sitting in Miss Frobischer's first-grade class in Uniontown, Pa., I am sure I thought that all 18 of my classmates were Good, and would be Good forever.

In reality one of them probably opened a puppy mill (The Bad) and one of them smacked his wife around (The Bad). One of them served in Vietnam (The Good) and one of them became an honest politician* (The Non Sequitur).

I have had my moments in both camps, but in general I think I am The Good. I am not as Good as my sister. She is The Good beyond my comprehension.

It's always disappointing when The Good turn out to be The Bad. Lance, Lance, Lance. You break my heart. Joe Paterno. His Bad was adjunctive, however, and I because of that I will always have compassion for him.

Some of us have no choice. We are born under a Bad sign, whether it is indifferent parenting, or squalor, or the proximity to gangs, illegal drugs, or gun-related mayhem.

I am sure that one of my classmates looked over the shoulder of another one when we were tested on fruits and stole an answer, and years later he stole a fruit truck.

We can be scammed partly because we believe or want to believe that people are basically Good. Then we see our doctor on “60 Minutes” and it's not because she has donated a kidney. She's sitting there with re-used syringes, and a candy dish of Oxycodone, Percocet, and Dexedrine.

Back to the nurse. I know a number of people who don't read or watch the news. The nurse said, “I can't do anything about it anyhow.”

Neither can I, but I need to know. I want to stay informed for one thing, and for another, Bad news — I have to say this carefully — is a part of my general humbug with life, and contributes to the instruction of my thoughts, my writing, and even my painting. Everything isn't festooned with sunflowers.

Finally, now and then Bad news might give us a Good Laugh: “Other than that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”

*Quote: “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?” Abraham Lincoln

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at


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