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Article > Peace, calm, and justice.
Description :: On doing more than just sweeping our differences under the rug.
I semi-recently had reason to write to my senator, Gordon Smith. My letter opened with:

The Associated Press reported the following comments on your part at a World Economic Forum in Jordan: "Obviously one of the greatest commitments that we have is to the Jewish people and the state of Israel, to try and manage the difficult process of the peace there and securing that nation, and doing so in a way that, if possible, is just to the Palestinians."

I won't quote the rest of my letter because, frankly, it was awful. Not "mean" awful, just terribly written. I'm surprised his office answered. But the gist of what I was trying to say, I think, is still valid. And I'm reminded of this whole affair because of news reports concerning the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. How are these related? People are taking the opportunity, remembering the many casualties of our bombs, to call for world peace (again.) Japan, admittedly, has been a much more peaceful(-seeming) place since WW2. Maybe it was shock, maybe they 'got religion' and realized that war just isn't a good thing. But I think that overall, people are more obsessed with having calm than peace. They don't want to die. They don't want to be maimed. They don't want to have bad things happen to them when they're just doing good. And maybe they even want calm for everyone else. But peace?

The reason I wrote to Senator Smith was to ask him to reconsider his position. Not about wishing the Israelis security (calm). No. I wish them that also. But about his priorities (and, as his reply to me indicated, the priorities of our nation) namely, security before justice. He (and our nation, at least in his view) considers justice for the Palestinians to be secondary to making sure people don't die. Now, I'm all about people not dying. Dying is a terrible thing. And murderers should be punished.

But I would posit that so long as we repress violence in order to achieve calm, we will not achieve peace. Calm is merely when nothing happens -- peace is when nothing is trying to happen. So long as there is a sense of injustice (regardless of whether or not injustice actually exists), there will be unrest, festering. It will display itself sporadically as violence, and there will be casualties. Now, you can lock up everyone who feels they've been slighted (with difficulty), but that doesn't achieve peace. It again only achieves calm, through repression.

In the same way, I don't think our legislature is concerned with justice or peace. We continue to enact laws that are grossly unfair to our own citizens, because part of our population just wants things to be a certain way. The minorities among us just have to deal with things being the way the majority likes. This doesn't promote peace. The threat of violence (arrest, trial, conviction, prison) is what maintains calm.

I argue, then, that if you're truly interested in peace (not just calm), you have to be willing to concede a little bit. If people are rioting because they have believe they have been harmed, then yes, the immediate response should be to restore calm. It's difficult to bring about justice during riots or terrorist attacks. But the next move should be to do your best to bring about justice, so the problem can go away.

In our own country, we should be thinking long-term. What do the unhappy minorities want that we can grant them? This is not appeasement. This is about harmony. Gays want to marry? Does it harm us? Can we grant it? Then why not? It will make a greater part of our citizens happy, and it is just. People want access to drugs? Are you harmed by people having the legal right to smoke marijuana? No, you are (at most) harmed by people currently 'high' doing something stupid -- but that would be the case regardless: the illegality of drugs like pot doesn't keep you safe, and alcohol is entirely legal. The use of drugs by other people does not harm you, as such. Why, then, create strife? You merely alienate a segment of your population; you create a context in which they can more easily believe you don't have the best interest of all citizens in mind, only the best interest of people "just like you". That creates a rift, a source of conflict -- a sense that someone's been unfairly, unjustly deprived of a right. (Remember -- you have all rights until we take them away from you.)

We get away with a lot of laws simply because they harm (or slight) only a minority. But what is law? Is law not about protecting minorities from majorities? If majorities always got their way, we would have mob-rule. We'd have lynchings every day where the majority simply decided the fate of a man. We have laws to protect the minorities -- whatever they may be at any given time -- from arbitrary choices. Yet we continue to make arbitrary choices when writing law. We declare that gays can't marry -- not because it directly harms us, but because we can. All of the gays, united, could not defeat us militarily. The war is won ahead of time. So we revel in the spoils of victory. We grant ourselves the right to strip them of their rights, merely because we want to.

You -- we! -- are pathetic.

What's more pathetic is that I found the Einstein quote only after writing this. He said it so much better.

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Owned by Unordained - Created on 08/07/2005 - Never edited

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