Mikal Gilmore at Rolling Stone has a great interview with George R. R. Martin. Unsurprisingly Martin has some smart things to say about war, power, and our natural good and evil.
Look at a figure like Woodrow Wilson, one of the most fascinating presidents in American history. He was despicable on racial issues. He was a Southern segregationist of the worst stripe, praising D. W. Griffith and The Birth of a Nation. He effectively was a Ku Klux Klan supporter.
But in terms of foreign affairs, and the League of Nations, he had one of the great dreams of our time. The war to end all wars—we make fun of it now, but God, it was an idealistic dream. If he’d been able to achieve it, we’d be building statues of him a hundred feet high, and saying, “This was the greatest man in human history: This was the man who ended war.” He was a racist who tried to end war. Now, does one cancel out the other? Well, they don’t cancel out the other. You can’t make him a hero or a villain. He was both. And we’re all both.
Two related pieces are also worth reading: the “outtakes” from the interview and a piece by Robert McGinley Myers in which he passes along a great bit of perspective from physicist Janna Levin.